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

Inclusive? Seattle?

SCPWD photo

I have had issues with the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities for several months now.  I am not the only person who has been a victim of abuse by the current co-chair of the Commission .

The Commissioner apparently spearheaded a campaign to eliminate special certificates as a choice for disabled employees to have an alternative and accommodation in the work place.  There was total lack of transparency and accountability in the rapid elimination of these certificates which led to a new law in Seattle prohibiting these certificates.

In my many attempts to have a conversation, ask questions, voice concerns and provide additional information to the Commission and others involved, I have been accused of lying, spreading misinformation, harassment and  being abusive – yet my questions have not been addressed or answered.  I have no idea if they were ever even discussed within the Commission since they have not posted meeting minutes for over 7 months.

Yesterday, I again attended their monthly meeting.  I was able to give a public comment before the meeting and the Commissioner said that he would answer a question after they finished their agenda.  This recording was made at a public meeting in a public place (Seattle City Hall – Boards and Commissions Room) with several Commissioners present, the Seattle Civil Rights Liaison and many other community members and guests in the room.  The Commissioner was made aware of the recording.  In Washington State it is legal to record public meetings as long as the recording device is not intrusive.  This was not a “private conversation” and the topic matter was explicitly about the issue of elimination of special certificates.

Below is an audio recording of our “conversation”.  Beware of foul language.  The conversation starts about 48 seconds into the recording.

Co-Chair of Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities

I have written letters to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, the Seattle City Council in addition to The Arc of King County, this Commissioner’s current employer to inform them of this continued abuse.  I have asked for the immediate termination of this Commissioner from the Commission and to not be recommissioned (his term expired April 30, 2018).

May 17, 2018,

Dear Mayor Durkan,

I am writing regarding prolonged abuse and harassment by Shaun Bickley, co-chair of the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities.  My interaction with Mr. Bickley began in August 2017 with my concerns and questions regarding the supposed research and information that he, specifically, was sharing regarding information on the elimination of special certificates which allow certain employers to pay certain employees a certain wage for a specific job.

I understand the issues and the process that was utilized in passing this ordinance and then passing into law. There was no transparency or accountability on the part of this commission and efforts to have concerns voiced, questions answered and a conversation to understand how the change would greatly affect our community were censored. Comments that did not agree with the commission’s view were removed from their Facebook page and community members were banned from any interaction.

The accounting of comments to the Office of Labor Standards was inaccurate and prior to that the Mayor and City Council members were not informed of the exclusion of concerns and questions from community members.  Mr. Bickley reported that there was unanimous agreement among people with disabilities and organizations – a statement that is far from the truth.

Today, I was finally able to make a public comment and then after the meeting, I asked to speak with Shaun Bickley regarding “unbanning” me from the public Facebook page.  In the past, all my interaction with Mr. Bickley had been via email and this was the first time that I have actually met him in person.

There are many questions that need to be answered and that’s all that I have ever requested from the Commission in my comments which have been defined as “abuse and harassment” by Mr. Bickley.  This recording was made at a public meeting in a public place (Seattle City Hall – Boards and Commissions Room) with several Commissioners present, the Seattle Civil Rights Liaison and many other community members and guests in the room.  The Commissioner was aware of the recording.

Please listen to this short audio clip from the “conversation” I had today and tell me who is abusive.

I have written a complaint to the Office of Civil Rights in the Fall of 2017.  The response I received was that it was not their jurisdiction.

I ask for the immediate removal of this Commissioner from the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities.  His term expired April 30, 2018 and I would ask that he not be re-commissioned.  His behavior and inability to have a discussion without becoming abusive is harmful to our community.  Regardless if he has a disability or not, no one needs to talk to another person in the tone, manner and language that this Commissioner uses.

Please respond to my concerns since this has been on ongoing problem with his interaction not only with me but with many other disability advocates in our community.  It is totally fine to disagree but it is not fine to censor and shut out community members who are stakeholders and live with disabilities.

Thank you,

Cheryl
Cheryl Felak, RN, BSN
Because We Care – Beyond Inclusion
Seattle, WA