Illinois Goodwill cuts paychecks for disabled employees as state implements new $15 minimum wage

The Land of Lincoln Goodwill in Springfield, Ill., claims they can no longer pay participants of their Vocational Rehabilitation Program due to the gradual increase in the state's minimum wage to $15. (Photo: WICS/WRSP)

UPDATE 7/18/2019: A statement provided to Yahoo Lifestyle by the Land of Lincoln Goodwill reports that Sharon Durbin, President & CEO of Land of Lincoln Goodwill submitted her resignation today to the Board of Directors.

“Land of Lincoln Goodwill’s Board is strongly committed to our mission, to our 400 employees and to those individuals with disabilities, veterans, at-risk youth, ex-offenders and those seeking job training assistance that we serve,” the statement read. “The Board fully intends to seek out a strong, compassionate leader for our Goodwill organization who can energize our employees, expand our mission and who can provide the mission-driven leadership necessary to positively impact thousands of lives each year in central Illinois.

“Goodwill’s Board of Directors thanked Sharon for her 13 years of service to the organization, noting her many accomplishments and the overall growth of the nonprofit and the number of people served during her tenure.”

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Within five years, the state of Illinois plans to gradually implement a new $15 minimum wage. While the increased minimum wage won't take full effect until 2025, roughly 60 disabled workers, part of a program at a Goodwill in the state, are now finding themselves without a paycheck.

Nicholas Braun, a 28-year-old man who has autismcerebral palsy and Tourette syndrome, has thrived at the Land of Lincoln Goodwill, which is his only source of income, according to WICS/WRSP.

"I love Goodwill," Nicholas told the station. "I like the people there and you know, it was a good atmosphere for me."

On July 1, Nicholas, who has worked with Goodwill's Vocational Rehabilitation Program for six years, which gives jobs to the disabled, was informed his position at the Land of Lincoln Goodwill has come to an end.

According to The Land of Lincoln Goodwill, due to the upcoming minimum wage increase, they cannot afford to keep Braun, and other disabled workers, on their payroll.

Nicholas’ mother, Loni, agreed that his time working at Goodwill has helped give him purpose.

"It was so rewarding to him,” Loni told the news outlet. “I saw him grow in ways that he could not have grown otherwise. I saw him become a self-sufficient adult. Now they're going to need food stamps; they're going to need extra assistance. How is that helping the community in them not having a job, when they actually had a job before and they were self-sufficient?"

She added: "They use the excuse of it going to $15. Well, that's not until the year 2025. So I really don't see how that affected them."

Sharon Durbin, president and chief executive officer at Land of Lincoln Goodwill, informed participants of the Vocational Rehabilitation Program that they would not be receiving a paycheck in the future due to the new minimum wage increase, according to RochesterFirst.com. She also warned the last 11 disabled employees on payroll that their jobs were in danger as well.

Durbin explained to the outlet that the increase in wages would cost their region more than $2 million each year.

"By making the changes now, we can start offsetting the expense that we're incurring, not only through Voc. Rehab, but the other things that we're doing in the organization," said Durbin, who runs the Central Illinois nonprofit branch that oversees 15 retail locations and more than 450 total employees.

While participants in the outreach program can still come into the Goodwill for developmental learning activities, they will no longer be receiving a paycheck to do so. For Nicholas and others participating in the program that was part of the draw.

The Vocational Rehabilitation Program also provided free transportation, which allowed participants a way to and from the Goodwill. For Nicholas and other participants who cannot drive, a way to arrive at work was vital.

"It's impacting the people that we care for and love for," Durbin said. "It is a change, but the blessing to all of this is that we're keeping the doors open to still provide the service."

Durbin went on to explains that she and the organization are not to blame. According to Rochester First, Durbin's brother is also disabled, and she has a soft spot in her heart for people like him.

"We are being viewed as this awful organization that is removing jobs from people with disabilities and that's not true," Durbin said, adding that disabled workers may need extra training and are not as efficient as traditional employees.

"It really was not a job," she said. "It was a work component and through it we gave them through grace out of our budget to pay them so they had a paycheck to go home with."

Durbin, who according to the outlet earns an annual salary of $164,849 and $6,145 in benefits, believes the increase in the state's minimum wage would set off a "domino effect" of jobless claims in Illinois.

“It is going to impact us all,” she said. “Gas prices are going to rise, grocery prices are going to rise. Jobs are going to be lost. Look at your Walmart, your Meijers, your Schnucks. They are doing away with real people checking you out and they are doing more to go in the line of automation. Why is that? Because they don’t want — or can’t afford in their business model — to start paying everyone who walks in the door $15 an hour. They can’t. So what are they going to do? They start eliminating jobs, because that is the first line of defense.”

Even though, according to his mom Loni, Nicholas never got a raise in the years he worked at Goodwill for $8.25 per hour, "I miss doing it," he said of his work at Goodwill. "I wish they would not have done this to me. I've been here for six years and never got a pay raise. We were all crying when some people left and you know, it's really, really… I want my job back. It's heartbreaking."

Land of Lincoln Goodwill did not immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s requests for comment.

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