Real Work For Real Pay:

Disabled people often struggle to find work. People without disabilities are three times more likely than those with disabilities to be employed. Disabled people who are employed sometimes make less than minimum wage when working in sheltered workshops. For those working in these settings, the average hourly pay is only $3.34. Subminimum wage is perfectly legal because, under US labor law, certain people with disabilities have been allowed to be paid less than the minimum wage since 1938. During the Great Depression, this law was introduced to encourage more people to find work.

Jerry D’Agostino worked but couldn’t afford to do things like eat out once a week, go to the movies, or attend Comic-Con. He worked at a center in Rhode Island with other disabled individuals, completing monotonous activities like inserting rings into heating tubes, packaging ice packs and assembling jewelry boxes.

Beth Carpenter worked at Production Unlimited in Watertown, New York, punching holes into colored plastic tags. She worked there for over a decade. She and her coworkers were paid according to how efficiently they worked, which is frequently well below minimum wage.

In 2011, when some employees were earning as little as 22 cents per hour, Goodwill International CEO Jim Gibbons earned $729,000 in salary and deferred pay. According to NBC, the CEOs of Goodwill franchises across the nation made a combined $30 million.

As of 2021, although 15 states have moved to abolish the practice, approximately 1,500 sheltered workshops remain in operation, employing an estimated 100,000 persons with disabilities at organizations like Goodwill and day program providers such as Opportunity Village.

Disabled people deserve to be paid fairly for their work. Data shows we are hardworking, creative, and reliable in the workplace. It’s 2022, and it is difficult to understand why subminimum wage is still legal. It is past time to end this discriminatory practice.


“All in: Easterseals Plan for Disability Equity.” Easterseals, Easterseals,

Berman, Jillian. “Some Goodwill Workers Earn as Little as 22 Cents an Hour.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 25 June 2013,

Carrazana, Chabeli, and Sara Luterman. “Many People with Disabilities Are Paid Just Pennies. Build Back Better Could Help End That.” The 19th, Amanda Zamora, 13 Dec. 2021,

Roberts, Lily, et al. “Removing Obstacles for Disabled Workers Would Strengthen the U.S. Labor Market.” Center for American Progress, Center for American Progress, 23 May 2022,

Selyukh, Alina. “Workers with Disabilities Can Earn JUST $3.34 an HOUR. Agency Says Law Needs Change.” NPR, NPR, 17 Sept. 2020,

Sommerstein, David. “Advocates Fight to Keep Sheltered Workshops for Workers with Disabilities.” NPR, NPR, 14 Apr. 2015,

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: