HB 1706 – Elimination of Special Certificates

Below is a copy of an email to sponsors of this bill that was heard today in the House Labor & Workplace Standards Committee.   This bill is being heard without an understanding of the full impact and pushed “as the right thing to do”.  I’m sorry, but we have already seen how policies driven by ideology with little regard to facts, evaluation and assessment of changes has contributed to our current and continued crisis in the supports for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
It’s time to stop the charades, work together and come to real, sustainable solutions that best benefit the most people.  HB 1706 is not one of those solutions.
Collaboration concept in word tag cloud

As a sponsor of HB 1706 I am writing you this email with information regarding the discrimination of this bill by denying the opportunity of any disabled person to work as an apprentice, learner or messenger.  By eliminating the special certificates for people with disabilities, the other jobs are also denied.  Apprenticeship, learners and messengers can be great jobs for people with certain disabilities and it’s shameful to deny those choices.

As stated in the documentary “Bottom Dollars” produced by Disability Rights Washington and Rooted in Rights  – “If people are given the proper services and supports and proper assistive technology, the sky is the limit for many, many individuals”  I truly believe this – unfortunately, HB 1706 does not address any of the issues of support – just the wage.  Do not pass HB 1706 until all the issues are addressed and planned as is recommended in research by national agencies.

Supported Employment is great – it can open up many opportunities for people.  It needs funding to be successful and this bill does not address the issue of supporting funds for job coaches, job development, job training or transition planning.  It only looks at eliminating the special certificates.  Eliminating special certificates without addressing the critical issue of funding supported employment/integrated employment for this population will result in a crisis.  This population is already involved in a crisis situation with lack of caregivers and supported living with many people stuck in hospitals with no place to go.  Passing this bill at this time is not in the best interest of anyone.

It is interesting to note that not one research report of any advocacy agency recommends immediate elimination of certificates.  A well planned and funded transition is needed for a stable and sustainable integrated supported employment opportunities.  There is nothing in this bill that addresses any issues regarding transition.  It has been stated that a rapid elimination would actually be detrimental to our population.

Elimination of special certificates without taking into consideration the other issues involved will only result in job loss.  It will not increase the employment opportunities nor will it mean that those with disabilities will now make a living wage. When a person is only able to work 10 hours a week, minimum wage will not allow them to be self-supporting.

In Seattle, the legislation caused people to lose hours at their jobs.  Yes, their wages increased but their hours decreased.  For some of these people their job was also their opportunity to be integrated in the community – with the loss of hours, their community integration opportunity decreased too. A question asked in today’s public hearing by Representative Mosbruker was regarding an evaluation of what has happened in places that have eliminated the special certificate.  This is a very critical question that also needs to be answered before moving forward.  There is information available on this for New Hampshire, Maine and some other states – I would be more than happy to provide links to you.

In Seattle, there were 8 people who were working under a Special Certificate – 6 at Ballard Locks were working 5 hours a day had their hours cut to 3 hours a day, the person at Ballard Lutheran had her hours cut from 15 hours a week to 12 hours a week and the person at Ballard Market was working 6 hours a week and did not have hours cut but the manager express concern about being able to hire employees with significant intellectual/developmental disabilities in the future.  It should be noted that none of these employees needed 1:1 job support for their jobs.

I did not hear anyone testify about the support needs for those involved in integrated employment or talk about the number of hours these employees may work a week or the coordination of supports (transportation, housing, personal needs support)  needed to be employed.  These are all critical issues that need discussion before a bill such as this is passed.

Again, as an example, my son who lives in Supported Living also has supported employment.  He works 9 hours a week at Lowe’s and makes $16.59 an hour.  This means that his gross wages are $597 per month.  He also receives SSI which is reduced due to his wages so overall his income is roughly $900.00.  He needs to pay rent, utilities, groceries and all living expenses from that $900.00.

The County (through DDA) pays the employment vendor about $2400.00 a month to provide the support to my son for his 1:1 job support.  What have you heard about the funding for these integrated jobs for people like my son who needs 1:1 support to be employed in an integrated community setting?  While the employer is paying the employee minimum wage, someone needs to pay the job coach or there is no job at all.

Please do not pass HB 1706 at this time.  Yes, fair and equitable wages are important but in order to have fair and equitable wages in an integrated setting we need to look at the whole picture.

At the risk of continued personal assaults from one of the people testifying today, I feel obligated to inform people of the consequences of taking such rash actions without a full understanding and acknowledgement of the various issues involved in coordination of supports. It was not a collaborative process at all with Shaun Bickley (he was co-chair of the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities) taking the helm and violating the First Amendment by censoring and blocking comments from constituents to the Seattle Commission and later writing libelous comments about others and most recently commiting fraud, conspiracy and interference with contractual relations with regards to my work as a registered nurse.  This is all in retaliation against me for trying to have accountability and transparency in the process of the elimination of special certificates in Seattle.

I would be more than happy to provide information on national research regarding the issue of special certificates and special wages, integrated and supported employment and transition planning to ensure sustainability and success.

Thank you for your concern and attention to this critical issue.  

Washington State Sub-minimum wage HB 1706

Here we go again discussing the issue of what the Special Certificates really are and what the subminimum wage really is.  HB 1706 is the bill that will be heard in the Washington State Labor and Workplace Standards Committee on February 11, 2019. (meeting cancelled due to weather)

For those people who are working for a special wage under a special certificate, eliminating this choice and option will essentially eliminate their job.  The Special Certificate allows a special wage (not be be confused with a sub-minimum hourly wage) for a specific job and specific amount of work.  It is not a wage based on an hourly rate.  This also means that when one hears stories of people making “pennies an hour” one is led to believe that people are slaving away with a whip over their head being exploited and coerced to work.

Yes, Seattle passed legislation this past year eliminating special certificates.  The legislation also eliminated the opportunity of ANYONE with a disability to work as an “apprentice, learner or messenger.”  This greatly discriminates against disabled in taking jobs in these categories.  This legislation was passed based on false information, lack of input from those directly affected and caused people to lose precious hours being integrated in their community.  Essentially – the opposite of what law,makers were told.

Currently, we have much more critical issues to address with regards to appropropriate supports for our vulnerable population which actually will affect the health and safety of many, many people in our state.  Now is not the time to address this issue which has had very little research or evaluation done in states (or cities) that have eliminated these special certificates.

Now is the time to sit back on this, evaluate and assess what has already occurred and how those affected have weathered the changes – it is not the time to create more havoc and crisis in our lives.

I fully support paying everyone a fair and just wage.  I also know that for our population with profound disabilities, their job alone is not the only income they have to support themselves and the great majority of people in this population work less than 11 hours a week (DDA Caseload)

As a fiber artist, I spend hours and hours on one project.  The price I sell a piece for is far less than “pennies an hour” for my work.  I would imagine that any artist will tell you the same thing.  Some jobs are not paid by the hour but by the product.

Special Certificates for Special Wages are not for jobs that are paid on an hourly wage but for jobs that are paid by the product.

#subminimumwage

 

Vigilante Justice

When I got home from work last night, my husband handed me the New York Times and told me to read the Opinion Essay written by David Brooks titled

The Cruelty of Call-Out Culture

“Once you adopt binary thinking in which people are categorized as good or evil, once you give random people the power to destroy lives without any process, you have taken a step toward the Rwandan genocide.”

bullying.jpeg

 

It really was good timing given the events of the day.  I had found out that SB,  a person who identifies as the Co-Chair of the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities had written a scathing letter about me to the CEO/President of the company that employs me.  My job has nothing at all to do with my volunteer work with this blog or with my volunteer advocacy work so the only reason that Bickley would have to write such as letter would be harassment and abuse.

Since I had to file a police report on November 3, 2018 for cyberbullying and libel due to another public essay written by SB,  I have not seen or heard anything from this person.  Why the sudden letter writing campaign now?  What is the purpose of the harassment and what does SB have to gain by abusing and bullying others?

There is one word which could have nipped all this abuse in the bud – ACCOUNTABILITY.   Unfortunately, when my encounters with SB started, SB refused to be accountable and continues to refuse – instead fabricating actions of abuse from others and claiming to be a victim from all the ableist people in our communities.

Intimidation concept.

 

Now, SB has also solicited a friend, Jennifer White, CEO of Able Opportunities to also write a letter to the CEO/President of my employer.  I have never met Ms. White nor have I ever had any contact with her.  She also wrote that she did not know me but asked if I was using these “bullying tactics with Mr. Bickley, how is she interacting with other vulnerable adults with disabilities who receive services at your hospital?

Now, again, with the escalation of abuse and threats written by SB in this recent letter, another police report will be filed, legal counsel will be retained and there may be court interventions.

Responsibility highlighted in green

It is shameful that things have been allowed to get so out of control.  The issues are not new and many people have reported complaints of abuse, harassment, stalking and other behaviors of SB to the City of Seattle.

Mayor Durkan did not reappoint SB to his Commission seat and SB then solicited the Commission to appoint them to a Commission seat and also to re-appoint them to the co-chair position in August 2018.  September 21, 2018, SB was “voted out of committee” for this Commission seat despite several people providing public testimony against this appointment.

Typically, once a Commission Appointee is “voted out of committee”  they are officially appointed by the Full Council the next council meeting.  The other Commission Appointee from the September 21, 2018 committee meeting was appointed on October 1, 2018.  To this date, SB has not been appointed by the City Council identifies as the Co-Chair of the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities and writes letters with that title.

It’s one thing to be called out for something one actually did but when one is “called out” for false allegations against you that is cyberbullying/libel.  It’s a whole different ball game.

NPR Invisibilia Podcast episode

 

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

Endorsing a Bully

Disability Rights Washington is presenting their “Breaking Barriers” awards fundraiser this month.  Below is information from the Disability Rights Washington Website which describes this award.

Ex-Commissioner (Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities) Shaun Bickley, was chosen as the recipient for the Advocacy Award.  There are many of us in the disability community who have been victims of Shaun Bickley’s online malicious and cruel attacks, slander and libel.  We are upset about Bickley’s violations of the First Amendment as a Commissioner, falsified data and information Bickley presented to the Commission, the previous Mayor, the previous Director of the  Office of Labor Standards and the Seattle City Council.

In addition to the above allegations (all well documented in public records), Bickley had extreme disregard for the by-laws and code of conduct of the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities.  In fact, after Mayor Durkan did not re-appoint Bickley to the Commission, Bickley took it upon himself to return to the Commission the next month and have himself voted in as the co-chair with a Commission appointed seat.  Bickley continues to refer to himself as the Co-Chair of the Commission despite not being appointed by the City Council.  This is a violation of the by-laws but evidently, Bickley is not held accountable to those by-laws.

“Bully”  is the least offensive description that many who have encountered Shaun Bickley use to describe his actions towards others.

How has it come to be that a BULLY is being honored as a recipient of this “Breaking Barriers” award?

 2018 DRW Breaking Barriers Awards! 

September 29, 2018

Each year, Disability Rights Washington presents its Breaking Barriers Awards.  These prestigious awards honor a business, an elected official or public servant, and an advocate with a disability for breaking barriers to advance the rights of and improve the lives of people with disabilities in Washington State. Specifically, Disability Rights Washington will present the following awards:

  • Advocacy Award
  • Public Policy Award
  • Business Leader Award

Advocacy Award

Disability Rights Washington presents this award to an advocate with a disability who has made significant contributions in the past year to advance the rights of people with disabilities in Washington State.

Breaking Barriers 2018 - Shaun Bickley

 

Haste Makes Waste – Seattle Style

Seattle has been played by a disability activist who has worked extremely hard to have legislation passed that removed the use of special certificates for people with disabilities.  While this may seem like a great step forward in the name of social justice, in reality, it has caused people to lose employment hours and discriminates against people with disabilities by limiting choices and alternatives.

The old saying “haste makes waste” was very evident in the process that has occurred.  Information from concerned and involved stakeholders was blocked which made it impossible to collaborate with the Commission and the Office of Labor Standards with regards to the rule change. Several City of Seattle staffers questioned the urgency of the issue but continued to push this along at the rapid-fire rate the activist was insisting upon.

When the voices of those directly involved are silenced and actions are taken without their input, violations occur.  This is an all too common theme in issues related to those with disabilities – particularly those with intellectual/developmental disabilities.  It’s even more frustrating when this rebuff is done by a Commission that is there to advocate with and for those with disabilities.

This transcript sums up fairly well the response that I received to any inquiry or concern.  The Co-Chair alleges that I harassed and stalked him in addition to many other fabricated stories of what I have done.  This conversation was between a disabled community advocate and the Co-Chair of the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities.   transcript between Cheryl Felak and Shaun Bickley May 2018

The law, as now written, actually discriminates against people with disabilities who would be able to get a job as “an apprentice, learner or messenger.” 

It is costly and time-consuming to hire and train anyone and employers may be even more wary of hiring a person with an intellectual/developmental disability.  Having the option of using a special certificate for a limited amount of time as a trial is an alternative that actually could have provided an opportunity for both employers and employees to “try out” a job without out a full investment for something they may not be sure would work out for either of them.  Having a time limit to the special certificate is a protection for the employee.

According to the Policy Manager of the Office of Labor Standards, the Minimum Wage ordinance prohibits our office from approving a special certificate  for any individual who meets the criteria of “an individual whose earning capacity is impaired by age or physical or mental deficiency or injury” regardless of the individual’s occupation.

It also needs to be noted that the Commission did not contact the City of Seattle Supported Employment Program for any information regarding supported employment.  The City of Seattle is recognized as a “best practice” and has received many awards for the work they do.  Supported Employment Brief Overview_2018 describes the City of Seattle Supported Employment program.

Some excerpts from City of Seattle Supported Employment Overview:

We customize each job by bundling a variety of entry-level duties into positions that individually match candidates’’ skills, which also allows your other employees to maximize their time.  The supported Employment program’s hallmark is its ability to design effective positions that adapt to individual human and organizational needs.

Job coaches provide training and coaching “support’ as needed for the supported employee.  Job coaches are a valuable resource for the entire workplace of a supported employee, and are available at no cost to an employer who hires a supported employee.  Coaches are dispatched from local community agencies that serve the employment-related needs of people with developmental disabilities.

How did the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities totally ignore this program and employees?  One reason is that the Commission refused to communicate with anyone that had concerns or questions about their push for a rule change and legislation.

It’s too late now to change the law in Seattle but there is time to stop this activist from going statewide with this and causing more harm.

Seattle Minimum Wage and People with Disabilities describes some of the deceit, lies, and violations of the First Amendment practiced by The Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities in pursuing the law to eliminate special certificates.

If you are approached by Shaun Bickley (@lLeftistAutist on Twitter) to sign on to the campaign he has posted or circulated – please think it through and understand what is missing in this campaign – mainly planning, transition, funding, collaboration and sustainability for disabled employees and our community.

Shaun Bickley campaign to end subminimum wage in Washington State July 2018

 

I got the city to ban subminimum wage

 

 

Abled/Disabled Division

Many recent issues with regards to advocacy are termed with the labels of “abled” or “disabled”.  This really strikes me as very odd, particularly given that so many have rebuked being “labeled” in the past so readily label others.

“Nothing About Us, Without Us” and “Did you even ask disabled people who would be affected”  are two of the most common statements from disabled self-advocates.

I have also found that one is labeled “abled” with no regard to disability – but it tends to mean a person who does not agree with the “disabled” viewpoint.  From those who self-identify as “disabled”  (which from my observation has no bearing on if the person is disabled or not – I know some people with significant disabilities who would never self-identify as “disabled” because they are who they are) I have witnessed extreme judgements and strong biased opinions written that are based solely on fiction.  No facts or evidence are produced to support those judgements but they are sold to others as the truth.

Also, disabled activists may be very “abled” in comparison to others who are disabled – do these “abled”  disabled activists speak for every disabled person?  In my opinion, they do not and have no interest in learning about the needs and choices of those “more disabled” then they are.  How does one even measure disability when it is so varied from one environment to another?

The disadain, hate speech, extreme judgements of disabled activists against anyone they define as “abled” (again this has no bearing if the “abled” person has a disability or not since it is in the eye of the activist) borders on pathology – delusions and fabrications of actions they believe “abled” people have done – is something that needs to be addressed and called out.

Using the “disabled card” to get away with abusing others is not okay.  It only builds walls and barriers to collaboration. One such disabled activist in Seattle swears at, calls people “sociopaths” and makes up abuse by other disabled advocates if one has a difference of opinion.  People say “he’s disabled” as if that excuses this behavior.

These are just some of the reasons that I just have to laugh at the “Breaking Barriers” award given out by Disability Rights Washington – an annual award given in several categories.  The advocate award is given to someone with a disability for breaking barriers to advance the rights of and to improve the lives of people with disabilities.

Obviously, my definition of justice and ‘breaking barriers” are very different than DRW’s definition.  They chose Shaun Bickley, the co-chair of the Seattle Disability Commission and the Secretary of Self-Advocates in Leadership (SAIL).  I totally agree that this person is very committed to his activist role but I also question his ability to build bridges and work collaboratively with others who may not totally agree with his opinion and deceit.

In addition, the issue of the elimination of special certificates which allowed people with disabilities to be able to be employed at less than the minimum wage has proven to be harmful to those involved – Mr Bickley is receiving this award for his successful campaign to ban these certificates.  This is discrimination against those with disabilities and prevents them from having jobs as learners, apprentices or messengers.