Fair wages for people with disabilities

People with disabilities can legally be paid far less than minimum wage – even less than $1 per hour. “The conversation on minimum wage could be an opportunity to right a terrible injustice we have inflicted on people with disabilities.  It is a little known, and dirty little secret that some non-profit service agencies and even for profit businesses are legally allowed to pay people with disabilities below the minimum wage, even less than a dollar a day.  This is completely legal and there are sweetheart government contracts awarded to disability service providers and business who engage in this disgraceful and dehumanizing practice. Often this work is done in segregated or “sheltered” workshops where people with disabilities are not allowed to interact with people, who could be doing the same work, but at a regular wage scale. This means our tax dollars are being used to segregate and exploit people with disabilities.  Did we miss or are we missing an opportunity to include the elimination of this practice in the current efforts to raise the minimum wage? How do we include the struggle for dignity and respect of people with disabilities in the broader struggle for economic equality? I am not a policy wonk, but a solution that occurred to me is that in states or other jurisdictions(city,county) working on minimum or living wage issues, can they include something to the effect of “No businesses who receive our tax dollars can pay sub-minium wages to people with disabilities”?  Sort of like how they do prevailing wage agreements-no building can be built that does not pay good union wages. I look forward to hearing folks thoughts about this.  There are some good groups trying to take on this on and some interesting strategies on how to..but they are small, un-resourced and uncoordinated for the most part. If folks are interested, I can try to connect some dots.” – Peter Witzler

See: http://www.disabilityrightstx.org/files/segregated-and-exploited_v18.pdf

Submitted by: Peter Witzler

Status: Active campaign with major partners including SEIU – see Autistic Self Advocacy Network (autisticadvocacy.org)

Updated: 2-5-14