Monday, May 5, 2014

H.R. 831 : Protecting disabled workers or eliminating options for DD?

H.R. 831 is a bill in the U.S. Congress that would phase out special wage certificates under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 under which individuals with disabilities may be employed at subminimum wage rates.

Workers with disabilities who are able to engage in competitive employment, with or without supports, should not be exploited in workplaces that profit off their labor but pay the workers sub minimum wages. The special wage certificates that are now issued, however, allow people with more severe cognitive and other disabilities to work at their own pace in skill development centers (sheltered workshops, usually in community settings) and receive pay adjusted to their abilities and how fast they work. To eliminate the special certificates would apparently, in effect, also eliminate this important option for people who can and want to work but would otherwise be unlikely to obtain employment in regular competitive workplaces. In the opinion of many who benefit from these programs, too little consideration has been given to what will happen to these people other than many more of them sitting at home with nothing to do.

This is an Action Alert from ACCSES, a national provider organization for employment programs for people with disabilities that opposes the bill:

Action Alert
NFB Push on H.R. 831

Next week, the National Federation of the Blind will be coordinating several action days to rally support for H.R. 831.
  • Tuesday, May 6 – Twitter Tuesday
  • Wednesday, May 7 – Call Wednesday
  • Thursday, May 8 – Email Thursday
We strongly encourage you to get the word out to your parents and allies regarding these action dates. Organizations like the NFB do not speak for all people with disabilities. Let your representatives know that skill development centers are needed and wanted and that you do not support H.R. 831.

We also want to alert you to a free webinar featuring New York Times columnist Dan Barry that will be taking place on Tuesday, May 6th. This webinar is hosted by the National Center on Disability and Journalism and will cover Barry’s recent New York Times piece, “The Boys’ in the Bunkhouse.” Barry will be discussing how he developed the story and will be offering “advice for others covering disability issues or people with disabilities.” While Mr. Barry produced an outstanding article, we are deeply troubled by the media’s negative focus on skill development centers and want to ensure that journalists in attendance know that the full story is not being told. The types of abuse that occurred at Henry’s Turkey Farm and in Rhode Island is already illegal and should be investigated and the organizations and individuals responsible should be punished, but that if legislation like H.R. 831 is passed, they will be telling an equally troubling story about jobs, paychecks, and social networks for people with the most severe disabilities disappearing.

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