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Goodwill’s Exploitation of the Disabled


Goodwill, like many organizations that claim to help the poor, is actually a horrendous exploiter of the poor. And this is utterly reprehensible.

An iconic nonprofit thrift store is crying poor in the face of looming payroll increases, and it is announcing plans to layoff disabled employees in order to take on the extra cost.

However, the 501(c)(3) organization pays no taxes, collects state funding, was awarded state contracts, and has special permission from the federal government to pay disabled workers well below the minimum wage floor.

Sharon Durbin, President and Chief Executive Officer at Land of Lincoln Goodwill, told dozens of disabled thrift store workers they would no longer receive a paycheck as a result of the state’s new minimum wage increase, and she warns future job cuts could still be coming to the last 11 remaining disabled employees still on the payroll.

Durbin runs the Central Illinois nonprofit branch that oversees 15 retail locations and more than 450 total employees. She wrote about “upcoming changes to the Vocational Rehabilitation Program” in a letter dated June 14th. Her letter said the program “is funded through the Illinois Department of Human Services,” but the funding “does not cover all of the significant costs of the program.”

The abrupt shift not only comes as disappointing news to dozens of disabled workers in the area, including some who live in group homes without their parents, but it also threatens to weaken the core promise of Goodwill’s mission statement.

Inside one of Springfield’s retail locations, a massive wall painting says, “DONATE STUFF. CREATE JOBS.” The loud speaker broadcasts a message that reminds shoppers, “At Goodwill, every item you buy, and every item you donate funds job training and so much more.” Literature hanging in the lobby announces that “we train and support over 1,000 people with developmental disabilities.”

The state legislature awarded a 3.5% funding increase in the current state budget to help fund the job trainers and skills coaches who work with the disabled employees.

Meanwhile, the important things have to be prioritized.

Durbin’s son, Brian Durbin, was hired onto the Executive Leadership team and makes an annual salary of $95,747 at the nonprofit.

The organization’s 990 tax documents from 2018 reveal Durbin takes home an annual salary of $164,849 plus another $6,145 in benefits.

The disabled people who are having their wages stolen are of course outraged:

“We are being viewed as this awful organization that is removing jobs from people with disabilities and that’s not true,” Durbin responded, claiming she holds a soft spot in her heart for disabled people like her brother.

She explained that disabled workers are not always as efficient or as productive as a traditional employee, and the extra time and labor it takes to train and correct the mistakes of the disabled workers costs more money.

“It really was not a job,” she said. “It was a work component and through it we gave them through grace out of our budget to pay them so they had a paycheck to go home with.”

Braun, who describes his experience at Goodwill as his dream job, disputed Durbin’s characterization of his abilities. He says his managers told him he was “very high functioning” and “said they wished they had ten more of me.”

“I am very proud of my work,” he said. “I would help when I was on the sales floor. I would help customers find what they were looking for. I would help them find where the active wear was, and this and that.”

Goodwill is a tremendously profitable operation. And like most companies, is run by immoral scum.

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