TODAY   |  June 22, 2013

Goodwill paying disabled workes pennies an hour

Goodwill stores create a place that usually makes consumers feel good about leaving old clothes, and a place to shop in a tough economy. Goodwill’s mission is to give jobs to people who are down on their luck, but records show Goodwill employees make pennies per hour. Rock Center’s Harry Smith reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> thank you. take old clothes or furniture and drop them off at a good will location. the centers employ disabled workers. you may not realize some of them only make pennies an hour. it's legal, but it is fair? "rock center" takes a look.

>> reporter: good will, a place where you feel good about leaving clothes and shopping in a tough economy. goodwill's mission is to give people a job who are down on their luck. good will does a lot of good, no question about it. we found department of labor records that show hourly wages in pennsylvania as low as 22 cents an hour, 38 cents, 41 cents, 44 cents. the list of wages under $2 an hour goes on and on. they are paid according to how quickly they work. because of a provision in the fair labor standards act in 1938 , it's perfectly legal .

>> the point of work is to make a living.

>> reporter: kathy once worked at goodwill.

>> why stop someone from being everything they can be. why stop someone from making a living wage ?

>> reporter: with a work force of 110,000 people, goodwill employs people with disabilities whose pay can be below minimum wage . while some goodwill workers are making pennies, their bosses are fairing a bit better. a half dozen ceos make $400,000 a year or more. many others make nearly that much. in 2011 , the ceo of goodwill industries of southern california took home $1.1 million in salary and deferred compensation.

>> how can anybody go into human services thinking they are going to get rich and do so on the labor of the most vulnerable citizens we have? how can that be fair of ethical?

>> i think these leaders are having a great impact in terms of new solutions, in terms of innovation and in terms of job creation .

>> jim, ceo of goodwill industries international says they give people with disabilities an opportunity to work, an opportunity they would not otherwise have.

>> it's typically not about their livelihood, it's about their fulfillment.

>> i think it's the nexus of charity and low expectation. unfortunately, people have gotten this incorrect idea that if you have a disability, you are not up to snuff.

>> harry smith , nbc news, new