It's hard to trust any corporations these days. From AIG's sub prime swindling and beyond to Wal-Mart's refusal to pay workers reasonable wages, everywhere you turn corporate corruption seeps into our daily lives -- you can't even trust tea companies anymore. Goodwill industries, one of the most popular chains of non-profit thrift stores with over 2,700 retail locations nationwide is a thrifter's paradise. But with $4.8 Billion in annual average revenue, is it wrong to wonder where all that money goes?
""Eighty-five percent of our revenue goes back to supporting our mission." That's according to Kirsten O'Donnell, Goodwill's Director of Public Relations and Marketing. Last year, sales from Goodwill stores funded employment training, job placement services, financial education, and youth mentoring to over 6.7 million people in the United States and Canada. The 'non-profit' classification for the retail stores serves to employ people with disadvantages and disabilities.
But in recent years, Goodwill has been criticized for using that as a loophole to pay their employees less than minimum wage.Under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, organizations can obtain a "special wage certificate" to pay workers with disabilities a commensurate wage based on performance evaluations.
Meanwhile, Goodwill Industries tax returns show that over 100 retail locations pay less than minimum wage, while dishing out more than $53.7 million in total compensation to top executives.
In 2005, The president of Portland's Goodwill took a hefty pay cut after an 18-month investigation by the Oregon attorney general's office decided his $831,508 in total pay and benefits in 2004 was "unreasonable."
But it doesn't end there. In 2011, the Columbia Willamette Goodwill, one of the largest in the country, says it paid $922,444 in commensurate wages to approximately 250 people with developmental disabilities. These employees worked 159,584 hours for an average hourly wage of $5.78. The lowest paid worker received just $1.40 per hour.
It's no surprise that a non-profit with such high...profits would come under so much scrutiny. Their webiste is full of feel good messages about helping the poor, and they do offer a substantial amount of transparency -- you can view their tax forms right on the site.
But where else are you going to get bohemian noir drapes and three pairs of jeans for under $20? If there is one thing Goodwill does right, it's landfill diversion with the most profitable recycling program probably ever. Corporate corruption is rampant in our time, so it's nothing more than a matter of deciding whose silky pockets you prefer to line.