Angry Illinois lawmakers said Tuesday they want answers from Land of Lincoln Goodwill Industries, which said it will lay off workers with disabilities in the wake of a minimum wage increase that hasn’t taken effect yet.
In a story first reported by WCIA-TV, the not-for-profit said it was taking the action even though it collects hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from state contracts, pays no taxes and has a federal waiver that allows it to pay less than the minimum wage to disabled workers.
“This dramatic action to me is ill-conceived and I’m deeply concerned about what Goodwill has set into motion here,” said Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill. “The CEO has received a $30,000 raise in the last several years. Meanwhile, she’s publicly opposing paying disabled workers an extra $1 per hour five months from now. Something isn’t right here.”
Land of Lincoln’s president and CEO Sharon Durbin makes $164,849 a year for overseeing 15 stores and 450 employees. Her son, Brian, also works for the charity and is paid $96,747.
“On the face of it, this woman, who is making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and giving a family member a $100,000 a year job, then cutting off, firing people with disabilities who are struggling to get by, seems wrong,” said Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, a longtime advocate for human services programs.
Land of Lincoln said it planned to issue a statement Tuesday, but it had not been released by the newspaper’s deadline.
State records show that Land of Lincoln was paid nearly $585,000 in the 2018 fiscal year and $689,000 in the fiscal year that ended June 30. Most of the money came from the Department of Human Services, which pays Goodwill for pre-vocation skill building services.
“It’s like job readiness. It’s getting people with disabilities ready to be employed,” said DHS spokeswoman Meghan Powers.
When DHS learned of the situation, Powers said, the agency contacted Goodwill to see if there was anything the state could do to help.
“We’re planning to work with them as much as they need,” she said. “Obviously, we don’t want these individuals to be let go.”
Manar, who represents the Springfield area and is a key budget negotiator, said he never heard from Goodwill that increasing the minimum wage would lead to job cuts. Lawmakers included more money in the budget specifically to help human services agencies cover the cost of the minimum wage increase. Powers said that in addition, organizations like Goodwill got a rate increase that could be applied to wages if it chose.
Lawmakers are planning further action if the situation doesn’t change. Rep. Robin Gabel, D-Evanston, said she is “pretty sure” she will convene a hearing of her Human Services Appropriations Committee to look into the issue.
“We expect the organizations that are given state dollars to continue their services and continue to have their employees,” she said.
Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield, chairs the Human Services Committee. She said Goodwill is using “false excuses” to terminate workers and she wants to look into how Goodwill is spending its state money. That could include a hearing by her committee.
Contact Doug Finke: firstname.lastname@example.org, 788-1527, twitter.com/dougfinkesjr.
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July 16, 2019 at 08:37PM