Support the Full Array of Employment Options. Push Back Against Attacks on Disability Employment Programs

ACCSES National Action Alert

Action Summary
In order to contribute to the national dialogue, we strongly encourage you to support Goodwill’s efforts and the work that your local CRP does every day to advance the employment goals of people with disabilities. 1) Write to your local media outlets and tell them why you support center-based employment and the commensurate wage and why we must preserve all employment opportunities for people with significant disabilities. 2) Inform your networks and participate in online opportunities to express your opinion. . 3) Contact your U.S. Representative to ask that he or she NOT co-sponsor H.R. 831, which would phase out and repeal Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which enables CRPs to pay people with disabilities a commensurate wage.

Background Summary
Over the last two months, Goodwill Industries International and its members have been attacked for providing skill development services (also known as prevocational services) and jobs to people with significant disabilities. The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) has been leading the charge to get rid of Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that enables employers to pay people commensurate with their productivity. That would have the effect of putting hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities out of work across the country. On June 21, NBC’s Rock Center program had a segment on 14 (c).

SPECIFIC ACTION STEPS 

  • Call your Representative at the House Switchboard (202-224-3121) or directly through their local offices. Ask to speak to a staff member who deals with labor issues.
  • Tell the Congressional staff that you provide employment services for individuals with disabilities or are a family member of a person employed in a center-based prevocational services program.
  • Provide a story of an individual you serve (or family member) who has been helped by center-based services, particularly those with limited productivity who receive commensurate wages.
  • Explain how many people in your local area would lose employment opportunities if H.R. 831 would pass [i.e., if Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standard Act is repealed].
  • Share your concerns about H.R. 831 with the Congressional staff. Tell them that: (1) H.R. 831 will simply have the effect of denying the opportunity to work for individuals with the most significant disabilities who cannot meet productivity standards; and (2) Individuals with the most significant disabilities must have every opportunity to work, including working in a skill development center at a wage that reflects their productivity.
  •  If you don’t connect with the staff person working on labor policy, ask for their e-mail address. Follow up via email with that staff person and provide the ACCSES 14(c) Position Paper and the ACCSES Position Paper on the Array of Employment Opportunities (available at accses.org).
  •  Invite your representatives to your local Skill Development Center.
  •  Write a letter to the editor of your local paper or post your story and post comments at NBC.com, Huffington Post, Salon, or any of the websites that have published stories about Goodwill.

ADDITIONAL TALKING POINTS

Regarding Executive Compensation: 

  • Executive compensation and Section 14(c) are unrelated issues. There are state and federal regulations that govern non-profit executive compensation. If an organization is in violation of the regulations, we support strict government enforcement.
  •  Executive compensation does not justify eliminating lower paying jobs. For individuals with significant disabilities, the opportunity to have a job is the central issue. The opportunity to perform in a job is the pathway to receive higher pay.

Regarding the Value of Section 14(c):

  •  Section 14(c) applies only to people with significant disabilities who have challenges that directly impact their performance in a job. Section 14(c) provides job opportunities for hundreds of thousands of people with significant disabilities nationwide. These people otherwise might not be a part of the workforce, even with reasonable accommodations called for by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
  •  We believe all people with disabilities should be encouraged to explore and discover the array of job opportunities available to them, including competitive placements and Section 14(c) placements, based on their individual preferences and personal strengths, needs, abilities and capabilities. Even when working under Section 14(c), continual encouragement to enter the competitive workforce should be a priority.
  •  Eliminating Section 14(c) will not ensure that ALL employees formerly working in this capacity will be paid the minimum wage. The American workforce, including those working under Section 14(c), are paid wages based on the skill set they bring to their employer. The reality is simple: skills drive wages. But this reality should NOT exclude people who cannot meet employer qualifications from enjoying the benefits of employment—pride, purpose and a paycheck. If employers were required to pay the minimum wage to everyone, individuals with significant disabilities are not qualified for the job, even with accommodations, could have their opportunity to work eliminated.
  • Eliminating Section 14(c) will harm, not help, individuals with the most significant disabilities by eliminating their opportunity for employment. Without Section 14(c), these individuals with the most significant disabilities may be forced to stay at home, enter day centers (if space is available) or live in a more isolated environment. In short, eliminating or phasing out Section 14(c) will likely replace a skills-based wage with no wage at all for hundreds of thousands of individuals with significant disabilities, denying them the many tangible and intangible benefits of work.
  •  Section 14(c) does not violate civil rights; it is an engine for the advancement of civil rights. It empowers individuals with the most significant disabilities to enjoy the many personal, social and economic benefits of work, in the setting they choose and feel most comfortable. Eliminating it is counter-productive because it replaces a skills-based wage with no wage at all. Its elimination would force employers to favor employees with more moderate disabilities over those with more significant disabilities, narrowing the spectrum of personal choice by removing options and not replacing them.

For additional information contact Thomas Cook at 608-244-5310, Ext. 103.

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