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Under Obama Order, Workers With Disabilities To Get Pay Hike

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President Barack Obama signs an executive order requiring that workers employed under federal contracts -- including those with disabilities -- be paid at least $10.10 per hour. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT)

President Barack Obama signs an executive order requiring that workers employed under federal contracts — including those with disabilities — be paid at least $10.10 per hour. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT)

An executive order requiring federal contractors to be paid at least $10.10 per hour will apply to workers with disabilities too, White House officials say.

President Barack Obama signed an executive order Wednesday raising the minimum wage for federal contract workers, including those with disabilities employed under service or concessions contracts with the government.

“If you work full-time, you shouldn’t be living in poverty,” Obama said. “This executive order will cover Americans with disabilities because this principle doesn’t just apply to some of us, it applies to all of us.”

The move represents an about-face for the White House. When the plan to hike pay for government contractors was originally announced during Obama’s State of the Union address last month, it left out many workers with disabilities.

Under a federal law known as Section 14(c) that dates back to the 1930s, employers can obtain special permission from the U.S. Department of Labor to pay those with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour.

Obama administration officials initially said that the executive order would not alter the ability of authorized employers with government contracts to pay so-called subminimum wage. But under pressure from disability advocacy groups, the final version of the executive order includes such workers.

“We applaud the administration for hearing the voices of the disability community and including disabled workers in the new minimum wage protections for contractors,” said Ari Ne’eman, president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, one of 25 groups that signed a letter from the Collaboration to Promote Self Determination urging the White House to include workers with disabilities.

“We hope to work with them going forward to convince Congress to repeal Section 14(c) for all disabled workers,” Ne’eman said. “Equal rights should apply to everyone — President Obama and (Secretary of Labor Tom Perez) helped us take a significant step forward towards realizing that vision today.”

The increased minimum wage will apply to new federal contracts and replacements for expiring agreements beginning Jan. 1, 2015, the White House said. The move is expected to bring a pay boost to hundreds of thousands of workers staffing concessions at National Parks, serving food to members of the military and in other roles.

It’s not known precisely how many people with disabilities currently earn less than minimum wage as federal contract employees, but such workers are believed to number in the thousands. The White House specifically cited individuals with disabilities working to maintain the grounds on military bases as an example of those who will receive a raise.

While some in the disability community say that subminimum wage remains necessary to ensure that employment is available for those with even the most severe disabilities, the practice has been targeted for elimination in recent years by numerous advocacy groups who argue that it is outdated.

(Updated: February 12, 2014 at 3:24 PM CT)

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Comments (16 Responses)

  1. Dadvocate says:

    I wonder if the people who risk losing their jobs or benefits because of this will be as thrilled as Ne’eman. While freedom from discrimination is a right, people still need to be able to voluntarily select programs like the 14(c) that fit their individual circumstances. One size fits all civil rights based advocacy is increasing looking like a movement of highly politically and intellectually skilled self-advocates imposing their will over those with severe intellectual and other disabilities. It looks like these folks are quite willing to accept far more collateral damage to further their agenda than I think is morally acceptable.

  2. Whitney says:

    It is not about that. Most of these 14(c) are forced upon people that have disabilities that are not intellectual disabled. Most people with Autism are socially cognitive impaired does not mean they are not intelligent but they and by DARS and other groups are told constantly that sheltered work programs are the right place and they do not need earn minimum wage. I am sorry if sheltered work program is saying that we are training you have computer skills to build apps and are paid in $1.00 amount compared non-disabled. It is considered part of 14(c) then it is a foul. That is main problem of 14(c) most employment agencies were using it to other disability groups other than intellectual disability as one size fits all.

    Plus here we had some major problems with Sheltered Work Programs here that the intellectual disabilities were put in serious danger and resulted major scandals. I have no problem of Shelter work sites exist as long they follow the guidelines safety for all employment. Selling trinkets on major traffic drags and city streets caused deaths of intellectual disabilities.

  3. Barb says:

    My understanding that this rule will apply to new contracts and old contracts when they are renewed. That’s fine. As long as any subsidies for workers with disabilities can be added to the cost of doing business and passed onto the Federal government, I’m okay with it. The problem will be if there are competitive contracts and those start being lost because the subsidized wages bring costs above what others can bid the job at. Then, we will see an unintended consequence of individuals with disabilities losing work opportunities because they cannot compete.

  4. Dan says:

    This is a one size fits all. . . . no options allowed. . . . not sure if the positive will outweigh the negative ramifications. . .

  5. WAautismMom says:

    Thank you Dadvocate for your well articulated response that summarizes what is happening in the disability advocacy front in many aspects. If the problem is that the 14(c) is being used inappropriately then that is where attention needs to go. I would rather my family member go to work more often and get paid less than minimum wage than for him to work a few hours a week in a token job and sit in front of the TV the rest of the time. Let’s not forget there is also a private enterprise system advocating for these changes that get paid well to “support” people in their jobs with public funding. Follow the money folks. If they place someone for 3 hours a week in a token job, does that constitute completing their government funded contract and also list them as a “successful” employment outcome? I know people, myself included, who work at jobs paying stipends that are below minimum wage but are skill building or community support. We meet people and grow our skills and knowledge. Sheltered workshops are also sometimes the babies we are throwing out with the bath water.

  6. UseCaution says:

    Section 14c of the Fair Labor Standards Act is strict. Not all organizations and agencies working under Section 14c are cheating. People with intellectual disabilities supported by the honest agencies will lose as an unintended consequence. Agencies operating illegally under Section 14c should be disciplined. People who feel they are cheated may file a complaint with the Department of Labor.

  7. sarah says:

    This so called “help” will probably result in fewer opportunites for those with intellectual disabilities.

  8. Whitney says:

    With Autism it not all the people are intellectual disabilities. Token Jobs are considered by some to make computer Apps. I am sorry. I rather not see 14 (c) go but the regulations enforced and updated making computer apps and fixing computer because the lay person can not. I do not believe that job should be paid a dollar an hour. Your asking computer people who have form Aspergers to not hack your security systems for dollar an hour. Cyber security is worth a dollar for you. If you want people to fix your computers and protect your security systems. We tried to complain and we did it is result of the Labor department in the article. EEOC has been a joke. We complain to them and they see no need to bring any suit of discrimination or labor abuse to the courts system. 14 (c) is something that Spock said in Star Trek and That is needs of the few are out weighed by the needs of the many. There are more groups in disability community are negatively impacted by this law. To many states feel that EEOC is nuisance and OSHA is pain in backside they see no need to enforce the laws. To much oversight ruins business and too little allows labor abuse. The problem is most labor laws are enforced by the state and not all states are friendly to the disabilities. If the States played their part protecting the rights of disabled the federal government wouldn’t need to step in.

  9. Paul Harvey says:

    Hopefully someone will keep records of how many people with Developmental Disabilities have to reduce their hours in order to keep their insurance as well as how many jobs are eliminated sure by employer due to cost.

  10. John Wayne Barker says:

    This is not an equal rights issue it is an economic principal that workers get paid based on what they produce. An honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work is still true if a worker with a disability gets paid less for producing less. The commensurate wage certificate permits programs to secure meaningful work for people with disabilities because we can pay them based on their unique productivity and still be competitive to the market. If these false prophets succeed in repealing Section 14(c) thousands of people with disabilities will lose their only option to make a wage.

  11. Tiff says:

    So a concessions stand worker with a disability will earn $10 an hour. How much will the private sector worker who helps them in their residential environment make? In my area that wage is lucky to be $9 an hour WITH experience. Also what happens when the concession worker makes too much money and their benefits are cut? Not all things that sound good are good.

  12. Mike says:

    This will eliminate many employment opportunities for many people with significant intellectual disabilities. Section 14 c is important to preserve. This is a step in the wrong direction

  13. Julie S says:

    At the conclusion of the article it is noted that Section 14 C is targeted by groups that argue it is outdated. Good laws and good public policy do not become outdated. Section 14 C is even more relevant today as people with significant disabilities are being relocated from institutions to live in our local communities, and today as people with significant disabilities grow up and live in our communities as they never had before. Section 14 C is a vital tool that allows many people to be employed. Section 14 C should be preserved.

  14. Jessica says:

    Unfortunately, this Executive Order will eliminate many employment opportunities for many people with significant intellectual disabilities. I currently work for an organization that employees many individuals with Developmental Disabilities and this EO will affect individuals that work at low productivity and rob them of the opportunity to have meaningful employment.

  15. Debbie Novak says:

    I think the bill should apply to all people on disabilities, not just a select few.

  16. tim bennett says:

    the disabled have a right to be paid minimum wages not subminimum wage section 14c is out dated it needs to be closed out for good this legal tax loop hole is wrong goodwill industries and other non profit sheltered should quit molly coddling their ceos with big salaries make them work for free the disabled/non disabled are made to work in a dead end job it leads to poverty you can’t buy groceries for$8.80 if you are lucky go to dollar general get 2 boxes of thier brand name cereal and and a gallon of milk country rich spend $7.96 and have .84 cents bus fare is $1.50 i n greensboro even $1.00/hour won’t do any good it’s time to pay $10.10/hour to the disabled/non disabled they could afford to buy more food and still have money left over

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