Re: Badwill

1


Not going to make a blanket defense of Goodwill, but the Special Wage Certificate program is hardly the Dickensian nightmare the author makes it out to be. We're talking by and large about people who would otherwise be shut out of the labor market entirely, e.g. adults with mental retardation. If it were a case of straightforward exploitation, you would expect to see employers lining up to take advantage of the severely disabled, but you don't. Even with the minimum wage exemption, it tends to be "mission driven" organizations like Goodwill that hire these folks.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 07- 1-13 11:55 AM
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2

I don't need a complete defense, just enough cover that I can callously maintain my lifestyle.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07- 1-13 11:57 AM
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3

2: If you boycott Goodwill, I will personally rob blind people until you end the boycott.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07- 1-13 11:59 AM
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4

It's okay to shop there (more than okay, considering the alternatives), but there are plenty of better charities to donate money to.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 07- 1-13 12:00 PM
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5


2: OK, you're clear. Employment means a lot more to the severely disabled than a paycheck. In many cases, it's their path to a measure of integration with society, or even a source of purpose in their lives.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 07- 1-13 12:03 PM
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It's okay to shop there (more than okay, considering the alternatives), but there are plenty of better charities to donate money to.

What about old VHS tapes. Can I still donate them?


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 07- 1-13 12:04 PM
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7

2 made me laugh.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 07- 1-13 12:06 PM
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8

My stepdaughter works at Goodwill (just one day a week) for less than minimum wage. I feel confident in saying that she is not being exploited.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 07- 1-13 12:07 PM
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9

My experience working alongside adults with mental disabilities was that the job was very much a source of purpose and affirmation. They required a substantially higher degree of supervision, which might have justified a lower paycheck, but I'd still be more comfortable with a minimum wage that was a true minimum applied equally across all areas (especially including food service and other areas where tipping is used as a dodge to stiff workers).


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07- 1-13 12:08 PM
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10

Goodwill not an ogre but I agree with 9. Shop on, Heebie.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 07- 1-13 12:39 PM
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11

So, the article linked in the OP is nonsense, yeah? It read like nonsense. Comment 1 seems like it clearly must be the deal.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07- 1-13 12:46 PM
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12

Has the Huffington Post improved, news-wise? I only read it for the side-boob slideshows.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07- 1-13 12:49 PM
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13

Even still, I think it's slightly fucked up for folks to hedge on ultra-low wages for disabled people (opportunity, sense of purpose: bullshit, pay them), when clearly the corner office is raking in the green on the backs of these laborers. Flying my red flag, I guess, but let me complicate it:
I'm also fairly skeptical of a boycott for many of the same reasons. This sentence from the article grates:

We also have to stop supporting Goodwill. Stop donating your old clothes to Goodwill. Stop shopping at Goodwill stores. When your friend tells you about the great bargain they found at the local Goodwill, tell them why you've stopped supporting the nonprofit

While I think it's clear that there is real exploitation, there is also very direct and local usefulness going on at goodwill. This boycott idea smacks of trendy Macklemore condescension. Notice I am also not going to offer anything better.


Posted by: Mentioner | Link to this comment | 07- 1-13 4:16 PM
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14

We're talking by and large about people who would otherwise be shut out of the labor market entirely, e.g. adults with mental retardation.

is entirely compatible with exploitation, if we're defining exploitation as "taking an inappropriately large share of the surplus produced in a cooperative enterprise, and giving an inappropriately small share to particular folks involved in that enterprise." People can be shut out of the labor market for reasons that aren't necessarily about the productivity they would have if adequately supported at a well-matched job. And the more shut-out they are, the less bargaining power they have, and the lower the share of the joint enterprise you'd expect them to get, entirely independent of productivity. This bit:

If it were a case of straightforward exploitation, you would expect to see employers lining up to take advantage of the severely disabled, but you don't.

doesn't seem to follow, or at least go all the way through. There are two problems with the argument, as I see it. 1- The claim could be that it's not exploitation because these workers are genuinely unproductive, and that's why we don't see others trying to hire them; they are in fact getting a fair share of their (very small) marginal product. The problem with this argument is that part of what these workers produce is precisely Goodwill's brand; you can't (legitimately) separate out Goodwill's status as a charity and the fact that people want to shop and donate there from the (arguendo) slower clothes-sorting that mentally disabled workers are doing in the backroom. Also, 2- the fact that certain employers specialize in taking on severely disabled employees, but most don't, could mean that it's always about charity and they're not really productive, but it could also mean that, unsurprisingly, designing production processes and business operations around disabled workers is a unique challenge in itself, and there's real organizational learning and specialization involved in doing it right, and that this means that it takes an organizational commitment; few HR or operations personnel will know it's a fight worth fighting, and even fewer will either have experience doing it or have the clout within the organization to make it happen.

Look, Knecht knows how businesses work and I don't. But it's not clear what separates the argument in comment 1 from all kinds of similar "it can't be exploitation because there's unemployment" arguments. And yes, I'm aware that these exemptions specifically require designing a test to compare the worker to a "normal" worker, but, as the article itself suggests, these tests can probably be very easily rigged by the supervisors. (And moreover, that doesn't at all go to my point about the contribution these workers make to the brand.)


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 07- 1-13 5:05 PM
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15

Huh. "Worst charity in America" definitely seems overstated (remember that article about all the nonprofits that are basically just straight-up scams?), but the whole thing seems at least problematic. I dunno. My mom and I just donated a whole bunch of stuff to Goodwill when I was down there visiting her. Maybe that wasn't the best choice, but I don't know of any alternatives. Are there other charities that do what Goodwill does but don't rely on this loophole?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07- 1-13 6:09 PM
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16

That is a truly terrible op-ed.

I don't have any firsthand experience with Goodwill's employment of people with disabilities. I can say that the two Goodwill employment training programs I have ever known much about were very highly thought of within in the workforce development work (which may sound like faint praise but is not intended that way).

I tend to save the ''worst charities" arguments for the ones that are spending 97 cents to fundraise 3 cents for programs. And those are out there.

I have this fantasy that someday we will go back to having state attorneys general who run on consumer protection platforms.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 07- 1-13 6:14 PM
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17

Along the lines of 9 and 1, if we're talking about workers with a severe disability and they're receiving supplemental security income (ssi), there are very strict limits about the amount of income they can earn and still keep their benefits. In that case, I don't see anything wrong with what Goodwill is doing.


Posted by: gea | Link to this comment | 07- 1-13 7:17 PM
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18

16 and 17 are right by what I have seen in other programs. My experience is now over a decade out of date and I'm sure such programs can be abused, but I wouldn't assume there was an abuse based on that evidence.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07- 1-13 7:49 PM
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