Jacksonville Reacts to Goodwill Employment Decisions

By Benjamin Cox on July 18, 2019 at 9:17am

A non-profit organization is under fire for pulling paychecks from disabled workers. WCIA investigative reporter Mark Maxwell and Nikki McGee of Fox Illinois blew the whistle on Land of Lincoln Goodwill’s decision to cut out its Vocational Rehabilitation Program and elimination of disabled workers due to the state’s minimum wage hike. According to the report, Goodwill receives nearly $400,000 in taxpayer funded contracts and was slated to receive a 3.5% funding increase under the state’s new budget that passed in May.

According to state records, Goodwill received $689,000 last year from Illinois’ Department of Human Services, which pays the organization for pre-vocation skill building services. Land of Lincoln Goodwill CEO Sharon Durbin had come under fire for the decision. Durbin and her son Brian’s salary figures were posted in the report, along with a salary increase that came during the state’s budget talks.

Local reactions to the decision have been negative. Jacksonville is home to both a Goodwill retail location and outlet-warehouse.

Local JACIL referred all comments to the decision to it’s Springfield partner. Pete Roberts, Director of the Springfield Center for Independent Living, didn’t mince words about the news. “It just strikes me as an affront to people with disabilities who are often hired and can perform the essential functions of their job that are often the first people to be laid off by ignorant people.”

Roberts already feels like some of Goodwill’s practices are discriminatory towards disabled workers to begin with. “We are opposed to the sub-minimum wage laws that allow non-profits to pay less than the minimum wage to their employees. We feel that’s wrong. We have situations with people who are performing the same essential functions of a job alongside someone else who gets the minimum wage and they don’t. We feel like that’s a form of discrimination and are opposed to a sub-minimum wage.”

Steven Brundage, Executive Director of Pathway Services in Jacksonville would hope that Goodwill would be making the disabled community a priority. “People with disabilities should be a priority. They should find other ways to cut spending before they take it out on people with disabilities. I’m not exactly sure what their mission statement is but I would hope it would be people with disabilities are a priority.”

Brundage understands Goodwill’s position on having a federal minimum wage waver. He explains the situation that some non-profit organization’s like Pathway and Goodwill face with wages. “Sometimes it’s the only way we can afford to pay people that may have work skills that are very slow or they take a long time to learn a job. It’s the only way we can fiscally afford to offer a job to them.”

State Senator Andy Manar and other lawmakers also jumped on the announcement from Goodwill asking for Governor J.B. Pritzker’s administration, the Illinois Department of Human Services, and Central Management Services for a review of all contracts with the organization. DHS has reportedly reached out to Durbin to find a way to make the program work.

At 1PM yesterday afternoon, Goodwill released a statement recanting their elimination of the Vocational Program as well as their elimination of 12 employees in the program under pressure from the report. Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, Illinois Senate Majority Leader Kim Lightford, CEO  of the Institute of Public Policy for People with Disabilities Kathy Carmody, Goodwill Industries National, CBS News, The Chicago Tribune and Forbes Online all added comments publicly to the story.

Lincoln Land Goodwill spans stores from Quincy to Danville.