Illinois lawmakers expressed outrage after a downstate branch of Goodwill Industries announced plans to stop paying many of the nonprofit's disabled employees, citing expected rising payroll costs due to the pending state minimum wage increase.
Yet after much backlash on social media, Land of Lincoln Goodwill Industries in Springfield on Wednesday reversed its decision, with the chief executive officer issuing an apology to "our constituents, our clients and our faithful donors."
"Our recent decision regarding the (Vocational) Rehab program and the resulting harm it might have caused falls short of living up to our mission and we apologize for this error in judgment," said Land of Lincoln Goodwill President and CEO Sharon Durbin in a written statement, citing an outpouring of comments regarding plans to no longer pay the workers. "We are reversing the decision to realign our Voc Rehab program and those participants affected will return to their part time skills training program with pay."
A Land of Lincoln Goodwill spokesman confirmed a letter was sent in mid-June to a dozen workers with disabilities in a job skills program, letting them know they would no longer receive a paycheck for their work because of budgeting constraints attributed to a recently approved Illinois minimum wage increase.
The charity now says all of those workers will receive their paychecks.
"All affected individuals will keep their previous jobs and their previous wage rate (minimum wage or higher)," said Patrick Anderson of Land of Lincoln Goodwill in an email Wednesday. "Back pay is being discussed now and most likely will happen for the affected individuals."
The nonprofit receives state funding for contract work and some reimbursement for services provided to people with disabilities. The charity does not pay taxes.
Land of Lincoln Goodwill, like other Goodwill agencies, is a separate entity operating independently under its own board of directors, Anderson said. Officials with Goodwill Industries International did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The local charity, which is based in Springfield, has 15 central Illinois retail stores and donation centers, and employs over 400 people.
Many Chicago lawmakers on Tuesday expressed anger that the nonprofit would threaten the pay of workers with disabilities, strongly advising the charity to reconsider.