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Review Of Low Wages For People With Disabilities Prompts Concern


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As a senator weighs congressional hearings on a law allowing workers with disabilities to be paid less than minimum wage, employers are worried that a change could force them to downsize.

Organizations like Goodwill often pay those with disabilities far less than minimum wage, which is allowed under federal law if employers obtain a government certificate. The law is intended to account for the slower pace with which some people with disabilities might perform a job function. Workers in these situations are paid according to their productivity.

However, questions about the practice surfaced last year when it was discovered that employees with intellectual disabilities were being paid just $65 a month to work at an Iowa meat processing facility where they were housed in questionable conditions. Now, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, wants Congress to take a hard look at the the law and its application to ensure that people with disabilities aren’t being taken advantage of.

That has some providers for adults with disabilities concerned. In the Iowa City, Iowa area alone Goodwill officials say a change in the law could leave 500 people out of work because there simply isn’t enough money to pay all employees minimum wage.

Further, those employing people at low wages say finding jobs at mainstream businesses in the community is unlikely for many of their employees.

Disability advocates, however, are arguing that low wages need to be phased out slowly so that opportunities for work can be established, reports the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Gazette. To read more click here.

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Comments (13 Responses)

  1. jward52 says:

    Discrimination continues against Our DISABLED U.S. Citizens! – Discrimination is especially growing from CONGRESS! – $Low Wages for the Disabled has maintained an all time Low. – CONGRESS has $Bailed-Out the $BANKsters whom caused the $Economic CRISIS.- And NOTHING for added assistance for Our DISABED Citizens,- whom are hurting the most. Their has been NO STIMULUS so far. In Fact,- the DISABLED Suffer the most, from CONGRESS’S lax attitude, and ongoing Discriminatory practices against the Disabled U.S. Citizens! – NO $BANK, or any Corporation should Ever come before Our People.- “NONE”! – Especially the anti-American Globalist $BANKsters & WALLsters. – – No where in the CONSTITUTION does it read:- ‘we-the-bankers’, – nor ‘we-the-corporations’. – So what is going on with Our elected officials? – This ‘turn-coat’ attitude has to END! — WE-the-People must remove,- VOTE OUT, these Traitors,- both RED & BLUE!! — Not only are Our most suffering Citizens being un-heard, un-cared about, and un-Represented,– but They are also being denied their’ CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS & Sovereign Citizen Protections. — CONGRESS should be ashamed. — Our Founding Father’s would be so disgusted at the ‘turn-coat’ attitude of Our Federal Government. – Today, the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial,- all hold Corporations above WE-the-People!!! — jward52 –p.s.-(a COLA of at least 50% is over due)

  2. Brian says:

    I have Early Onset Dystonia Muscular Deformity, I agree with this article to the point that some people who Have disabilities can’t earn a lot of money monthly in fear of losing their government benefits. People may just want to be productive, instead of losing everything they have from the government, working for less is their only choice.

  3. ecurra19 says:

    This topic should really concern the whole community. How can a senator have a congressional hearing on a law allowing workers with disabilities to be paid less than minimum wage? The change should concern everybody. How statisticians can calculate how many people will be disable? Who will be disable in our community? The truth is that the slower pace will never find a job and the Vocational Rehabilitation will never find a job for these types of situations.

  4. ecurra19 says:

    The community of People with Disabilities will be challenge with the financial economical situation on the United States. Not only will our services be sacrifice but our wages too.

  5. dude2011 says:


  6. disabilitiesrightsadvocate says:

    As I have mentioned in countless other posts, the practice of subminimum wage is not only shameful, but it embodies the idea of discrimination. Sure these individuals are “willing” to accept these wages because for many people with disabilities, this is the only means of achieving any employment whatsoever! But all too often they find themselves doing meaningless and menial tasks for hours on end and in some of these sheltered workshops, they work right beside (less productive) “normal” workers who are doing the exact same tasks at rates that are up to 6times as high per hour. Even more despicable is the fact that these high earning corporations are getting huge government kickbacks for having hired people with disabilities and the workshops they work out of also get incentives to keep people with disabilities in the workshops. Also, people with disabilities should not have to worry about losing their entitlements (which are notably insufficient) based on earning regular wages, especially since it is extremely difficult to live off of these to begin with. When you compare an SSI/SSDI recipients annual income to that of a person recieving minimum wage, it doesn’t even come close, especially if you take into consideration other expenses that many of us would not incur without having a disability. These acts are criminal any way you look at it and if all of us are going to benefit off the subminimum-wage people with disabilities, than we all need to defend their right to be paid appropriately. Not a single one of us would stand for being paid double what they make, so we should not expect them to either. The only difference between “them’ and “us” is that many of “them” do not have the opportunity to be heard by a system that has historically allowed them to be placed beneath the rest of society.

  7. GREGORY says:

    This I never knew went on and right under the Obama admistration too. I was outraged especially at the $65.00 per month at a very hectic meat packing plant. I guess they could not find enough foreign labor or was it even that too expensive. This is even less than what I understand the $3.50 an hour training wage!! My Uncle told me in certain areas like Kentucky they are exempted from the Min. Wage so a lot of fast food places spring up like crazy. Gee they pay more in some places in China to sum up things!!

  8. Linda Thomas says:

    Yes!! 12 hour days for often slightly crippled disabled people who go home to less than desirable conditions is outrageous. I know many cases where women endure horrible situations. Sheltered workshops are safe and some are very good, but in real life a place needs to be developed for this community to improve self esteem, to mix with “valued” peoples, to learn a trade and practice it accordingly, with fair pay and advancement opportunities. Bakeries, Shoe and Leather fix its, school supplies/office needs store, everyone is unique and there should be many opportunities to mix in everyday with ‘regular’ people. Our society needs this for healing and compassion for all.

  9. Paul Harvey says:

    Certainly there are cases that are abusive for people with disabilities and non disabled. There are plenty of Government agencies that can look at these cases on a case by case basis. BUT, most people with development disabilities (intellectural disabilities) ane not employed at all – i.e. making $0 and many with nothing to do which is far worse than how much per hour they are paid. So our main focus should be on getting our folks employed or volunteering – i.e. contributors (although I recognize severe cases where this may not be possible). Also be careful looking at those whose focus is on $/hour – many work less than 20 hours a week and do what ?? the rest of the week.

    My son has worked in for over 15 years in a subminimum wage group where he loves the work, his fellow workers, and takes great pride his pay check. His productivity is about 50% of a non disabled worker doing the same work, yet is is paid more thatn 50% of the going rate for a dishwassher. He cannot compete with a non-disabled worker nor do I expect or want his employer to pay minimum wage out of charity.

    I continue to be saddened by our lack of focus on the unemployment rate of over 60% and if you do not count those working less than 20 hours a week more like 80%. I often hear “fairness” quoted, well take my son and his co-worker who is not disabled making the same wage even though my son cannot be as productive. The non disabled worker must make a living and could resent the fact that they produce more and only recieve minimum wage while my son produces less and receives minimum wage plus SSI plus health care insurance. Well maybe we really don’t want to be fair.

  10. Cindi G says:

    I was unaware that individuals with disabilities could be paid less than minimum wage. In the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Gazette story (linked here), it stated that companies like the Goodwill could get a certificate allowing them to pay under the minimum wage — the premise being that these individuals probably work at a “slower rate” than a neurotypical individual.
    Interestingly, my son has to be told to stop working at his volunteer job. As veteran entrepreneur, 23 years as a business owner, I have first hand experience with neurotypical workers. My son never takes smoke breaks, plays on the computer or updates his Facebook page, texts or chats on a phone, steals from the company, etc., etc.
    This “less than minimum wage” law is just another form of discrimination. Any U.S. citizen should get equal pay for doing the same job. If you take out all the smoke breaks, phone chats, downtime playing on the computer, updating Facebook, texting and just plain chatting in the office, many of these workers being paid “less than minimum wage” probably deserve a higher hourly rate than their “neurotypical” counterparts.

  11. Christine Griffin says:

    The article in the Cedar Rapids Gazette states that Disability advocates are arguing that low wages need to be phased out slowly. Not ALL disability advocates are arguing for a slow phase out of the sub minimum wage program. In fact, many of us have been arguing for years that we end this archaic program and to propose a slow phase out will only keep this shameful program going far longer than should be allowed. Many of these programs have existed for many years without any oversight or adherence to the DOL rules that govern their ability to exist as training programs. Unfortunately we see time and time again that the “trainees” become permanent employees without any of the rights that employees in this country enjoy.

  12. Virginia Korleski says:

    For one related think the link isn’t working need to change it. And I’m one of those who tried to get a ‘job’ but at the time those jobs were ‘hard to get too’, possible loss of public transpiration, to ones can get to, and trying our best to work without losing our benefits.

  13. Philo says:

    Let’s get a few facts straight. Deinstitionalization was supposed to transistion people with intellectual disabilities into residential programs to teach living skills and eventually help transistion into an independent life. Work centers were designed to do the same. Unfortunately as time went on a large number amassed that did not fit into that frame and/ or have tried and have returned to supportive environments where working at sub minimum wage is the only option other than volunteering or staying home. All work centers are not sweat shops or horror stories. I have worked in one for twenty five years as a vocational rehab counselor and can give plenty of examples of people going out to work . I can also give plenty of examples of people who could not make it due to behavorial issues and or other barriers. My point is not everyone with a disability has the independent ability to work in the community and sustain a competitive job. That may sound harsh or unrealistic but the thruth is that is the truth!!! The workcenters have become the safety net or in the modern term the variance for people to use if competitive employment is not possible. Currently NYS as with other states are taking that option away. Why ? Because they want you to believe everyone should be working in the community . The fact is in NYS state there is an 850 million dollar deficit of billing discrepancies created by state run agencies and now the need to trim Medicaid money to help pay it back is in full swing. Bashing workcenters is a convenient way to get everyone on board the hate wagon.
    For the record Piece rate work is DOL regulated and determined by a persons production. Do I think it’s fair that sub minimum wage is used? At times no, but the non disabled worker in the community would be fired if producing at levels below industry standards. That’s a fact . The other issue is if we paid minimum wage, over half of our people (200) would be sitting home doing nothing. This reality is happening all over the country. A one size fits all approach that is currently being pursued by states unwilling to adopt a variance, is going to create collateral damage for many of our most vulnerable disabled workers. The age of most in work centers are in their 50 ‘s and above. Unknown to most consistent monitoring has always been the norm to address the desire to go out to work. Informed choice for community employment is presented during monthly and also 6 month reviews. Many of the new laws blindly being put in place to stop discrimination of the disabled are actually causing lives to be turned upside down. I can truthfully say Twenty five years working in a safe well run facility is possible. Our citation free audit reviews from NYS and national oversight agencies including the DOL speak volumes about the satisfaction that our folks communicate and demonstrate. They choose to be there and that choice always has options for growth, however as I said earlier it should not be a one size fits all issue. Sympathy needs to go and Empathy needs to reign because the fact is without a work center their world be no work at all for thousands nation wide. It’s widely documented in these types of forums.
    If people are so concerned Start addressing the lack of funding from states and federal to subsidize the need to pay minimum wage. Non profits can only do so much to offer work to those who truly need and CHOOSE a supportive sheltered work setting. Going forward, the plan is to bypass the workcenters and send people out of high school right to work. Great so I could have become a VRC without college? If they don’t make it guess what? They go home because there is currently no variance (safety net) and the work center in 2020 will no longer exist as an option. For our current population you can’t just pull out the rug and say sorry can’t offer this anymore … That’s not fair .

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