Apprenticeships Help People with Disabilities – but not in Seattle

Great News for Job Development and Training with Apprenticeships – but unfortunately, not in Seattle.

I have been an advocate of apprenticeship programs for many years – not just for those with disabilities but for everyone who would be interested in this type of training to develop job skills.

The US Department Labor Department – Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) has contracted with Social Policy Research Associates (SPR)  to develop up to four pilot apprenticeship worksites.  One of these sites is Apprenti in Redmond, WA.

(see the article from SHRM regarding an announcement of this program.)

Unfortunately, there has been recent legislation in Seattle which prohibits people with Disabilities to work as an “apprentice, learner or messenger” – regardless of the pay.  This discriminatory legislation was instituted by the work of the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities and the Office of Labor Standards.

The rule change and subsequent legislation were rushed through a process without conversations and collaboration with those in our community.  There were violations of the First Amendment by the Seattle Commission which greatly impacted the outcome of this legislation.

There was little insight into how this rule change would affect those who were actually impacted and the wording in the new law (which was to remove discriminatory practices) actually is more discriminatory by the current wording.

Below is the wording of the legislation for SHRR 90-050 – Learners, apprentices, messengers, workers with a disability from the Seattle Office of Labor Standards Minimum Wage Rules. 

2. Issuance of special certificates

  • a. The Director may issue special certificates to pay a subminimum wage for learners, apprentices, and messengers as described in RCW 49.46.060
  • b. The Director shall not issue special certificates to pay a subminimum wage for people with disabilities as described in RCW 49.46.060.

Apprenti – Redmond, WA –  indicates that their training wage at least 60% of fully-qualified regular employees; then a  raise to at least 70% and after 6 months, at-will.   If this is the case with this pilot program, no employees in Seattle will be able to participate due to the legislation regarding people with disabilities.

Again,  issues such as this could have been alleviated if the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities allowed discourse with community self-advocates and other disability advocates who were affected.

If the haste of this rule change and subsequent legislation had been made public and shared, if the Commission had allowed discussions to take place, if the Commission had listened to what the community members were saying, we could have had a law written that did not discriminate against those with disabilities.

The Commission for People with Disabilities, of all Commission, should be responsive to the needs of the disabled community.  In this situation, they were not and ended up taking away choices for those they are to serve.


Persons with a Disability: Labor Force Characteristics Summary (Bureau of Labor Statistics – United States Department of Labor)

see post “Haste Makes Waste – Seattle Style” for more information on this issue

2 comments on “Apprenticeships Help People with Disabilities – but not in Seattle

  1. Ivan says:

    The Poeple who do those aprranticeships. Just need pay minimum wage. They denying disability worker cause they don’t want pay minimum wage. Best way this get fix


    • The purpose of an apprenticeship is to get paid while learning a skill or trade. It is for a contracted time period and for training – rather than paying to go to school. One learns the skill on the job.

      Federal Regulations on Working Hours
      Apprentices must receive at least the minimum wage specified by the Fair Labor Standards Act for hours they spend working. Employers should indicate what type of work apprentices will receive pay for in a written agreement. As the apprentice gains and uses skills while working for the employer, he should receive wage increases. The employer should stipulate in the agreement how and when the wage increases will take effect. If the apprentice assumes the duties of a professional worker, he should receive the same pay as a professional. For example, if the apprentice is asked to handle a professional workload because not enough professionals are present, he must receive a professional’s wages regardless of his classification and skill level, says the Department of Labor.

      Federal Regulations on Instructional Hours
      Not all hours apprentices spend learning entitle them to compensation, however. Time spent in a classroom, or other form of instruction in which they are not actually working, does not necessarily entitle them to compensation. If employees are to receive compensation for these instructional hours, the apprenticeship agreement must specify this in writing.

      State Regulations
      States may enforce their own regulations about the minimum wage for apprentices. Apprentices may be entitled to a portion of the state minimum wage. States may also limit the number of hours an apprentice can work. The state department of labor can tell employers and employees what type of compensation apprentices must receive.

      For more information on how an apprenticeship works see the link above or


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