What the Press Left Out

By Dave Duncan

On Sunday June 29th, 2014 the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin printed a fine in depth article (over two pages) that detailed the plight of worker with disabilities. The article detailed how thousands of workers in New York State, as well as nationwide, are employed at wages “as little as a penny an hour under the federal sub-minimum wage program.” While these workers are being exploited at these brutally low wages, the Press’s article pointed to the exceptionally high pay and bonuses that the directors of nonprofit agencies receive for putting people with disabilities to work. Many of these nonprofit directors are compensated at annual rates that range from $150,000 to more than $400,000 per year. The CEO of Chenango County Chapter of NYSARC was cited as receiving compensation totaling $410,396 for 2012. The Press article cited many other examples of nonprofit CEO’s are whose excessive salaries are made off the backs of workers that make much less than minimum wage. “The median compensation at New York nonprofits that employ workers below minimum wage was $184,046”. Not mentioned in the Press article was the $143,781 annual pay and benefit package of Mary Jo Thorn the CEO of Country Valley Industries. CVI is a local nonprofit that provides work for people with disabilities.

Important Connections that the Press Did Not Include                                                                   Who buys the goods and services that are produced by the nonprofits? Not the public. CVI, for example, contracts with local corporations that include Bates Troy Laundry, IBM, Ingersoll Rand, Felchar, Lockheed Martin, Frito Lay and NYSEG. Workers at CVI render services that enhance the bottom line of these corporations through the sub minimum wage program.   According to their web site Country Valley Industries of Johnson City “contracts with NYS Industries for the Disabled in assisting people with qualifying disabilities to connect with local employers for job opportunities. CVI recruits, supervises, and coordinates people with disabilities for local profit making industries.” CVI provides a “cost effective outsourcing solution to your packaging and workforce needs.” They promise to match industry needs with a database of workers, teams and services.

Other Financial Benefits That Occur to the For Profits In additional to benefiting from the employment of sub minimum wage workers, these industries, according to the sales pitch by CVI, “may also be eligible for the reimbursement of wages paid to the disabled worker for the first few weeks of employment and certain work opportunity tax credits maybe also available.” Their hiring can also be more convenient. “The labor of the handicapped workers can be dispensed with at any time and provide “a great alternative to using conventional temp services.”

The Nonprofits Are Merely the Pimps for the Corporations NYS and organizations like CVI provide the recruitment, training, coordination, supervision, coordination and support so people with disabilities can ultimately be used to enhance the bottom line for the profit making corporations. The Press does not cite the corporations that ultimately benefit from the low pay of handicapped workers, nor does it cite the salaries of the CEO’s of these corporations. Why? Would they lose their standing with the Chamber of Commerce?

 A Bad System for All Workers Establishing a program that allows any workers to be paid less than minimum wage is an attack on the minimum wage and the pay of all workers. It is harmful to the general workforce. People with disabilities should be employed and their lives should be enhanced without exploitation by the overpaid CEO’s of either nonprofits or profit making corporations.

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