* US Sens. Sanders and Duckworth reacted to the local Goodwill uproar…
* Washington Examiner…
Since the 1930s, employers have been able to ask the government for permission to pay people with disabilities less than the minimum wage as a way to get them into the workforce so they can build their skills and obtain more competitive work later. Oftentimes that transition doesn’t happen, however, resulting in wages that amount to only cents per hour.
Opponents view the exemption as archaic and say it’s time to phase it out, while proponents of the status quo fear that people with disabilities will lose work opportunities if that happens. In Illinois, for example, the president and CEO of Land of Lincoln Goodwill told workers with disabilities this week that they would no longer be getting paychecks because the state was moving toward a $15 minimum wage.
Through the waiver, employers are allowed to compensate workers based on their productivity level. For instance, if a worker without a disability is paid minimum wage to hang up 100 articles of clothing an hour, then someone with a disability who hangs up 50 articles of clothing an hour would be paid half the minimum wage.
An estimated 195,000 people are paid less than the minimum wage, and 2,000 employers use the subminimum wage waiver, called Section 14(c), that they obtain through the Department of Labor.
The [federal] Raise the Wage Act would set the subminimum wage at $4.25 within the first year of the bill becoming law, and then gradually increasing it every year for the next six years until it hits $15 an hour.
* WLDS highlights a local split…
Pete Roberts, Director of the Springfield Center for Independent Living, didn’t mince words about the news. “It just strikes me as an affront to people with disabilities who are often hired and can perform the essential functions of their job that are often the first people to be laid off by ignorant people.”
Roberts already feels like some of Goodwill’s practices are discriminatory towards disabled workers to begin with. “We are opposed to the sub-minimum wage laws that allow non-profits to pay less than the minimum wage to their employees. We feel that’s wrong. We have situations with people who are performing the same essential functions of a job alongside someone else who gets the minimum wage and they don’t. We feel like that’s a form of discrimination and are opposed to a sub-minimum wage.”
Steven Brundage, Executive Director of Pathway Services in Jacksonville would hope that Goodwill would be making the disabled community a priority. “People with disabilities should be a priority. They should find other ways to cut spending before they take it out on people with disabilities. I’m not exactly sure what their mission statement is but I would hope it would be people with disabilities are a priority.”
Brundage understands Goodwill’s position on having a federal minimum wage waver. He explains the situation that some non-profit organization’s like Pathway and Goodwill face with wages. “Sometimes it’s the only way we can afford to pay people that may have work skills that are very slow or they take a long time to learn a job. It’s the only way we can fiscally afford to offer a job to them.”
State legislators have attempted in the past to do away with the sub-minimum wage, but never succeeded.
* From last May…
Rock River Valley Self Help Enterprises, an Illinois nonprofit, billed itself as a vocational training program for people with disabilities. But it essentially operated as a subcontractor for local factories, providing menial tasks to workers with developmental disabilities, such as scraping debris from metal casts.
Last week, the Department of Labor took action against the company “after finding nearly 250 workers with disabilities were being exploited.” One of the ways they were being exploited? Self Help paid some workers with gift cards instead of money. […]
In addition to sometimes paying workers in gift cards, Self Help also paid them less than the minimum wage. Paying workers with disabilities in gift cards is unlawful; paying them a subminimum wage is legal. That’s because current law allows employers to pay as little as $1 per hour, or less, to workers with disabilities if they can’t perform a job as well as a person who is not disabled
* The Question: Should Illinois phase out the sub-minimum wage for workers with disabilities? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please…