I need to update my readers at Nexsen Pruet (Goodwill’s Law Firm) on what I have been doing since late last summer. I filed an FOIA request with the US Department of Labor in September of 2012 to get information about the payment of subminimum wages to disabled employees of Goodwill. On five different occasions, I sent registered letters to various offices within the DOL to try and get them to give me the information which any citizen is legally entitled to.
My first contact at the DOL was with Oliver Peebles, III. Crap in a knapsack! What kind of name is that? He sounds like a character from a Flintstones cartoon or a door-to-door outhouse accessories salesman from Green Acres. At any rate, he finally sent me a few pages of completely nonsensical data dating back to the stone age…totally useless. I had to go down the line to the next buffoon and make another request…and so forth and so on.
After over four months of wasted efforts, I finally got an email from Sonia Melendez asking me exactly what I needed in the way of information. She indicated that she would work to resolve this matter. I responded with this email:
Thank you for contacting me. I was getting absolutely nowhere with my initial DOL contacts. I hope you understand my frustration.
Please allow me to provide you with some background:
The past summer the National Federation of the Blind waged an organized protest against Goodwill Industries over the issue of sub-minimum wages paid by Goodwill to disabled individuals. An FOIA request was filed by the NFB which indicated that Goodwill was paying disabled employees as little as 22 cents per hour.
Another posting on the NFB website claimed that their FOIA request revealed that 64 of the 165 Goodwill franchises pay sub-minimum wages.
This nationwide protest occurred late last August. There was a contingent at the Goodwill store in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and the event was covered by the Myrtle Beach Sun. I communicated with the head of the NFB here in South Carolina and he indicated that the Goodwill franchises in South Carolina would not cooperate with the NFB in their efforts to eliminate the 14 (c) provisions of the wage and hour law allowing payment of subminimum wages to disabled individuals.
This does not jive with what a Goodwill Industries of Lower South Carolina (GILSC) spokesperson told the Myrtle Beach Sun regarding this issue. She claimed that the average wage of disabled employees at GILSC was $8.90 per hour and that they received another $2 per hour in benefits.
The wife of the CEO (without identifying herself to either the reporter or the readers) commented on a website operated by Myrtle Beach TV station, WPDE, which also covered the protest. She upped the ante by claiming that GILSC was paying disabled employees an average of $8.90 per hour plus $3 dollars per hour in benefits.
Somebody is lying here and the public deserves to know. Mainstream media in South Carolina, either because of ineptitude or collusion, steadfastly refuses to conduct an in-depth investigation of GILSC.
Here is the gist of the information that I need:
1) How many Goodwill Industries franchises currently utilize the sub-minimum wage provisions? Is it still 64 or has the number decreased since the protest occurred? I need this information in order to gauge the effectiveness of the NFB protest. I also need a list of those franchises which still pay sub-minimum wages.
2) Does Goodwill Industries of Lower South Carolina still utilize the sub-minimum wage provisions?
a) If the answer is no, when did they stop?
b) If the answer is yes, how many GILSC workers are currently being paid sub-
minimum wage? I realize that it is difficult to ascertain an exact number
because employee turnover is very high. If it is easier to simply provide me with
the number of applications for exemption from minimum wage submitted by
GILSC in the past 24 months that will be fine. I also need to know the lowest wage
paid by GILSC to any disabled employee operating under a special wage certificate.
In closing, I would like to add that the CEO of GILSC, Robert Smith, appears to have little or no respect for the huge influx of federal dollars that are continually being channeled into his organization. In an interview published in March of 2011 in the Post and Courier, he went out of his way to deny that GILSC received any funding from the government. I did some research and discovered that, in 2008 alone, GILSC received right at $11 million through federal contracts. Considering the (often unwarranted) public animosity being directed at the federal government it would seem that he would be more gracious (or honest) in acknowledging the huge role that the US taxpayer plays in supporting Goodwill Industries of Lower South Carolina.
Click To Enlarge!
Ms. Melendez didn’t respond to the above correspondence. It has become readily apparent that the DOL is much more interested in protecting crooked “charity” CEOs than fulfilling their obligations under the FOIA laws. Imagine that! A sniveling, fearful, mouse-like bureaucrat crawling off into a hole and refusing to do the right thing? (“Must not fight corporate corruption…they are our masters…keep fingers crossed until retirement…must do as ordered”). Not a Braveheart in the bunch…the banality of evil.
I need to mention that the head of the National Federation of the Blind in South Carolina, Parnell Diggs, who is also a practicing attorney in Myrtle Beach, did next to nothing to help me “Dig” up the truth about Palmetto Goodwill (pun intended). A mover and shaker he ain’t…tits on a blind bull…
The problem I have with the DOL is that they refuse to provide me with current information regarding the payment of subminimum wages to disabled employees. The information that they sent me was only good through December of 2012. Even then, I was pleased to discover that our local Goodwill was not among the franchises which paid 22 cents per hour to disabled employees and that their lowest paid worker was making $1.84 per hour…over eight times more than the worst offenders.
It is nice to know that, up through December of 2012, a disabled individual working for Palmetto Goodwill could, at the very least, earn enough money in a day to pay for bus fare and a couple of corn dogs. These folks make for great photo-ops for Goodwill Industries. Lord knows how many images they put out there of individuals with Down’s Syndrome to promote their scam. I have seen trucks and billboards plastered with 10-foot images of these folks. I wonder if they receive any compensation for this? If Palmetto Goodwill practiced truth in advertising their trucks and billboards would most likely resemble the images below…
I have no idea whether Palmetto Goodwill has finally renounced the payment of subminimum wages to disabled employees and, quite frankly, I don’t give a damn…silly, smug, lying corporate bastards can join hands with the staff of Nexsen Pruet and the fearful, self-absorbed boobs at the Department of Labor and do belly flops into a pit of molten lava. I would cheer them on as they would be doing their part to make the world a better place.
If you view the link regarding the wife of the CEO commenting on the Myrtle Beach website you will notice that she identifies herself by name then adds “North Greenville University” rather than “Wife of CEO.” I don’t need to point out that this is not just strange, but deceptive as well. (Update: Poor Gwen…She just can’t seem to get her story right. Originally she posts as being from “Charleston, South Carolina.” Then she edits the post to say “North Greenville University.” Now, she sees my comment on this blog post and changes it again to “Works at Charleston Water System.” Well, Gwen, we both have something to be grateful for…you for comment editing capability and me for old-old fashioned copy machines…nothing like a hard copy to prove a point. Maybe you should just delete your foolish comments altogether and keep your fingers crossed that no one will notice.)
In closing, I would like to say that I am not an anti-government wacko (although some may argue that my wackiness expresses itself in other directions). There are many good things that government does to ensure the health, freedom, security, and safety of our citizenry. I salute the brave and dedicated government employees who understand and appreciate the concept of “public service.” That does not preclude the existence of a significant minority of spineless career workers who gnaw their fingernails in fear while biding their time until retirement…willing to bend any law or commit any transgression in order to preserve their own salaries and benefits.
More photoshop fun with sniveling, self-serving DOL bureaucrat Oliver Peebles III…Stupid Asshole! Next time…read the fine print!