Christ salvation

Salvation Army paid some workers as little as $1 a week, lawsuits say

The Salvation Army is facing three federal lawsuits accusing it of exploiting marginalized people under the guise of providing therapy by paying just a dollar a week for full-time work.

The lawsuits, filed this week in Georgia, Illinois, and New York, accuse the philanthropic organization of flouting US wage laws at its Adult Rehabilitation Centers (ARCs) by paying well below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour or overtime . The Illinois and New York complaints also allege that the Salvation Army violated state wage laws.

“Instead of getting help on the path to stability and recovery, participants are forced to do grueling manual labor, live in miserable conditions, earn pennies in wages and give up life. ‘government assistance that could improve their self-sufficiency,’ Michael Hancock, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, said in a statement.

A Salvation Army representative declined to respond to the allegations, saying in an emailed statement that it does not comment on ongoing litigation.

In a separate ongoing lawsuit over its recovery centers, the group has defended its approach, which it calls “work therapy,” as a way for people to learn job skills and “help recipients of the program to become productive members of society”.

But according to lawsuits filed Wednesday, Salvation Army rehabilitation centers are little more than a pool of low-paid labor used primarily to support its operations.

The organization’s 120 centers serve thousands of people each year, many of whom suffer from drug addiction or homelessness, or who have been sentenced by a court to attend these programs as an alternative to imprisonment. Participants must also forfeit any food aid or other government assistance to the Salvation Army, plaintiffs’ attorneys said.

Everyone in the program is also required to work 40 hours a week for the Salvation Army and is prohibited from working elsewhere, according to the lawsuits. Participants who miss shifts have to make up time, and those who can’t work at least 40 hours a week — even if it’s because they got injured on the job — are kicked out of the program, complaints say .

These requirements effectively mean that participants in the program are workers, claimants’ lawyers argue. But their pay — no more than $25 a week, “dormitory sleeping arrangements,” and food and clothing from Salvation Army donations — falls short of federal minimum wage and overtime laws. .

The Salvation Army made $424 million in sales at its thrift stores, according to its latest annual report.

$21 per week

Michael Clancy, a plaintiff in the Illinois lawsuit, spent six months at a Salvation Army recovery center in Chicago from 2019 to 2020, according to the lawsuit. While there, Clancy often worked 40 or more hours a week sorting and hanging clothes, loading and unloading donations into trucks, answering phones, and working as a security guard at the facility. But Clancy was never paid more than $21 a week, even though he worked side-by-side with other employees who were paid minimum wage, according to the complaint.

“ARC workers who complete the program often leave ARC penniless and jobless, unable to survive economically in their communities,” the lawsuits allege.

The Salvation Army, a Christian organization, has run work-based rehabilitation programs for more than a century, according to its website. The programs have been the subject of lawsuits since at least 1990, when the US Department of Labor ordered the group to pay minimum wage to its beneficiaries.

But charity for follow-up and mounted an intense lobbying campaign, according to media reports. The Department of Labor eventually exempted The Salvation Army in agency operations Manualstating that the government would not enforce minimum wage or child labor laws with respect to the group.

Last year the Salvation Army was sued in California amid similar allegations of minimum wage violations. Former ARC participants have also sued the charity Illinois in November, alleging that his obligation to work for low wages amounted to human trafficking.

The senators called for an investigation into compulsory work programs in government-funded rehabilitation centers, to suggest that forced labor is not an effective addiction treatment. A survey by the Charlotte Observer last year found that many workplace rehabilitation programs had a success rate of only around 30%.