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Protests Mark ADA Anniversary

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On the 21st anniversary of a law that dramatically expanded disability rights, advocates are demonstrating across the country against a proposal that would set guidelines on when workers with disabilities can be paid less than minimum wage.

Members of the National Federation of the Blind are holding “informational protests” outside the district offices of members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Tuesday.

The actions coincide with the 21st anniversary of the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which greatly increased the rights of people with disabilities and ensured broad accessibility.

Tuesday’s events are designed to urge senators to reject a proposal that would outline the circumstances under which people with disabilities could be employed at less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, organizers say.

“Unequal pay for equal work on the basis of disability is unfair, discriminatory and immoral,” said Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind.

The Senate committee is expected to consider the proposal covering so-called subminimum wage next week as part of a reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act.

Despite significant criticism from some disability advocates, others say that the proposal would offer needed protections for a system of sheltered workshop employment that currently has little oversight.

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Comments (5 Responses)

  1. Catbird says:

    I worked in the job placement section of a large metro Goodwill. I walked by the sheltered workshop every day. I socialized with the clients who worked there. I knew that I could find most of them jobs in the community but I was never allowed to do that. These people were terrific cash cows for the company and I was warned not to even speak about community placement with them. Sadly many of them did speak to me about getting out of the sheltered workshop. I finally quit. It is a scam people! The business that contracts with a sheltered workshop pays the workshop. A governmental entity also pays for the participants to be there. They have some nerve paying sub-minimum wage when they make so much profit. The CEO at the Goodwill I worked at makes well in excess of $900,000 a year. With benefits he’s a million dollar fat cat. Where do you think all of that money came from? It is off the sweat of the most vulnerable among us. They work in heat and he has an air conditioned office. What’s wrong with this picture? Oh, and don’t give me the lame excuse that they work too slow. Average work rates were set by Hmong refugees who had the fastest hands in the city. I couldn’t meet the average. It’s all part of the scam.

  2. waykul says:

    Funny thing…those non-profit organizations I visit, inclluding many Goodwills, are very dedicated to finding the best employment opportunity they can for people with disabilities. Persons in their stores and “sheltered work” environments are routinely encouraged to consider jobs where minimum wages are paid. Some are interested, some are not. But the support effort and encouragement is there. Pehaps if government and community support for integrated employment were more available, many more persons with disabilities would be willing to take the risk. Then again…maybe Catbird was simply not very good at job placement.

  3. disabilitiesrightsadvocate says:

    The thought that this practice continues in this day and age is beyond me and all advocates. That is why it is so vital to the independence of people with disabilities, for all people to take action and speak up on their behalf. We cannot simply look the other way, when we are well aware of the conditions in these workshops are substandard. Most people would never dream of working in conditions that are half that bad and perhaps if the opposition was forced to do so, they would quickly become advocates for better wages, better conditions, and advancement for people with disabilities.

  4. JustMe says:

    “Minimum” means the least, the lowest, the smallest. Minimum wage does not mean an adequate wage; it just means the lowest legal wage. Why would it be legal to discriminate against people because of their disability?

  5. disabilitiesrightsadvocate says:

    @ Just Me: I would say that is because not enough of us are advocating to ensure that ridiculous policies like this one are never enacted.

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