The Dark Reality Behind America’s Greatest Thrift Store Empire

How a Saturday night internet wormhole effectively ruined my favorite store.

Alice Minium
Apr 22, 2018 · 10 min read
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Image: Henry J. Cordes

“We are trapped. Everybody who works at Goodwill is trapped.” -Harold Leigland, $5.46 an hour

1. Less than one-eighth of the company’s profit goes toward its charity work.

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2. Your donated items get shipped out to neo-imperialist buyers that threaten developing industry in third world countries.

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3. Goodwill has actively fought against legislative proposals to raise the minimum wage.

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4. Goodwill seized on an archaic 1938 law to justify paying workers as little as 22 cents an hour.

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5. Many people with disabilities have actually died from injuries borne of Goodwill’s unsafe workplace safety practices.

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Source: Goodwill Industries

“It’s a question of civil rights. I feel like a second class citizen, and I hate it.” -Sheila Leigland, $2.75 an hour

6. Employees that criticize Goodwill’s practices end up getting fired, threatened, and publicly defamed by the company.

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Source: Goodwill

7. Employees are subject to strict, unrealistic performance quotas, and their wages are docked if they’re not fast enough.

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“At $2.75 it would barely cover my cost of getting to work. I wouldn’t make any money.”

-Sheila Leigland

8. Hiring disabled and formerly incarcerated people is not a ‘venerable’ act of charity, it’s corporate responsibility.

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Source: Goodwill

“People are profiting from exploiting disabled workers. It is clearly and unquestionably exploitation.”

-Ari Ne’eman

9. Goodwill’s legal status as a charity wins grants and tax subsidies, manifesting in hugely lucrative quantities of profit for executives that are not evenly distributed amongst the people they are intended to benefit.

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10. Perhaps most of all, it is troubling to promote your business as a charitable institution, project a false image of your workplace practices, and abuse the public’s trust.

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