Sub-minimum wage in Seattle – corrections needed!

There has been recent discussion in Seattle, prompted by a recommendation from the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities to eliminate wage certificates in Seattle.

The City Council and Mayor have followed the recommendations as written but they were not given accurate or current information regarding the use of these certificates. The commission states that they did extensive research over 4 months and have many testimonies from people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to end the practice of sub-minimum wage.  The commission has not been able to provide requested information regarding their research nor the testimonies that were delivered.

The Seattle Times published an article August 26, 2017 entitled “Seattle’s push to end lower pay for workers with disabilities:  Would it help or hurt?”   brings up several different issues regarding wages and disabilities.  It is a complex situation that takes more than 4 months of research from an isolated world view to understand who it affects and how it will affect them.  We need collaboration.

I have provided resources to the commission from the National Council on Disabilities on their recommendations regarding wage certificates.  The Seattle Commission recommendations are far different and the results could be devastating.

Seattle recommends elimination of certificates by January 2018 (5 months after recommendation) with no transition plan or funding plan in place (at least that they have been able to share – my requests for these have gone unanswered)  There is little collaboration with other advocacy groups or individuals who may be affected by this recommendation.  In fact, organizations and individuals who have had concerns have been blocked or banned from comments.

While I do not necessarily support the National Council on Disabilities plan, at least it is comprehensive and collaborative and takes into consideration the lives of the people involved.  There are time frames for goals and also depending on the age of the person and/or how long that person has worked at a job under a certificate, there is a sliding scale for transition.  This is a completely different process than what the Seattle Commission has recommended.

I provided information regarding integrated work for people with significant intellectual disabilities and provided an excellent resource with specific skill building and individual considerations that need to be addressed in transition plans for young adults.  The article from the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation entitled Integrated work for those with significant intellectual disabilities is one such article with realistic goals and assessments to take into consideration with regards to supported employment.

Other issue of misrepresentation from the commission –

New Hampshire had no businesses utilizing  these certificates but they updated their policies to officially end the practice if they were to be used.

Maryland passed legislation that as of October 2016 they would phase out these certificates and after October 1, 2010, their Developmental Disabilities Administration may not fund providers that pay individuals less than the minimum wage under a specified federal certificate.    Maryland (as of January 2017) had 4067 employees utilizing certificates (Washington had 1963 employees using these certificates) (United States Department of Labor – Workers with Disabilities)

There are several different issues addressed in this article.  Apparently there are two employers that pay some specific people with some sort of disability less than the current minimum wage.  These employers do not have a wage certificate and it appears that they have agreed to pay the employees the minimum wage.  Clearly, this was a form of discrimination and should be called out and corrected.  There should be some follow up to ensure that these employees are able to keep their jobs with the same number of hours if they desire.

There is the other issue of people with significant intellectual and developmental disabilities who may be utilizing the wage certificates in order to have employment.   This is the the population of people with disabilities as a whole but a very small percentage of the population.  It is these very people who the commission will not listen to with regards to some very critical issues that could drastically affect their lives.

Nothing about us, without us – Please take it to heart!

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