The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) is hosting an online dialogue to engage stakeholders in a policy-making process through ePolicyWorks. If you would like to join in you can access the discussion from this link. You can register and than write your opinion, like or comment on another idea someone else submitted. It has been great to see this participation.
There are 3 sections of topics – “Use of the Section 14(c) certificates and observed trends”, “Experiences transitioning from the use of Section 14(c) certificates” and “vision for the future of work and workplaces; the landscape over the next five to 10 years”
There are several themes that pop up over and over again and it is really wonderful to see how much support there is for CHOICE to be honored. But even though CHOICE is supported there are many who disagree and do not respect that choice.
There are SO many issues that are involved which are all very complex and inter-twined. One cannot change something without understanding how all these issues intersect. This is even more difficult when people misunderstand the rules of Section 14(c) and how it is intended to be used.
This issue is not just a simple matter of paying the disabled person minimum wage and then they will be independent and off public assistance.
This past legislative session in Washington State there was a bill that was sponsored by Rep. Noel Frame that passed into law after at least a couple of strikers, a few amendments, and much work by constituents and legislators. Engrossed House Bill 1706 as passed into law
This law has no information regarding increased training, job skill development, or funding for supports needed by these disabled employees in order to work. It will need to be evaluated before any more transitions take place.
During the House Floor discussions, there were some telling comments by legislators that both indicated that they understood the situation and that they did not understand the full situation.
Representative Tana Senn (41st Legislative District)
“We just heard on this house floor about people with developmental disabilities being needy, not knowing the difference between 5 dollars and minimum wage and focus on the parents. But I’d like to bring us back to both the people themselves with disabilities and the businesses that hire them. My husband works for MOD pizza and their entire business model is to do second chance hiring – whether it’s people who are recently incarcerated and now back out in the community or people with disabilities. And when I asked him if he pays and if his company pays people with disabilities minimum wage – he kind of looked at me askance and asked “why would we pay anybody less money for a job that needs to be done. He also emphasized that they talk about people at their company as those with special abilities because they know that their co-workers and the community around values diversity and by having people with special abilities in their restaurants – and they have over 500 across the country – that they know that they are demonstrating inclusivity and diversity and this actually improves the work environment, improves the services and the food and the environment that they deliver to their clients – and so again Mr. Speaker, this is something that all workers can appreciate , that businesses can thrive off and Mr. Speaker, I see no reason why we would pay anybody less for their special abilities to do a job that needs to be done”
- Questions To Representative Senn –
- Do the people her husband employs at MOD pizza have 1:1 supports ?
- If no, what type of support does the disabled person have in order to do their job? .
- Does she understand that those supports are not paid for by the employer?
- Would MOD pizza still employ these people if they had to pay another person to be their support or the manager had to devote extra time and energy in management to support this employee?
- If MOD pizza needed to provide the support for the employee, would that employee’s hours be cut due to cost?
- Are these employees at MOD pizza considered “high acuity” or “high support” employees by DDA?
Representative Mary Dye (9th Legislative District)
“Many of those in our community with high acuity, meaning they are more needy in their wrap around services in their employment, they go into independent employment in a private industry, but they have job coaches and people surrounding them to help them be successful and have that time. Every time we impact that program it means those high acuity people, those people with severe disabilities have less opportunity, less time in the workplace. That is the piece that hurts the most when we pass bills that we think are right but in actuality, are absolutely devastating to those people who would otherwise be out in the community working”
Representative Michelle Caldier (26th Legislative District)
“I had many of these employment providers coming to my office saying “hey, look at what we are doing, we’re giving these folks a job, we’re job coaches, and it wasn’t until I had parents come and talk to me that I really saw the complexities with employment for people with disabilities.
I learned how much these employment providers make off of the backs of individuals who are developmentally disabled. I also learned that it pretty much eliminated group employment throughout our state and a lot of those parents told me – they said what my child wants is – they’re very social – they want to be around other folks that they can communicate with – maybe they’re not doing the job at the same speed but you know what – they’re able to have the social interactions that they would not get otherwise . And now because group employment is pretty much eliminated across our state – now they’re in a job that they don’t necessarily like . We need to make sure that we have options for people – that there’s opportunities for folks and what we really need to do is dig deeper and listen to the families and listen to what they say – not the people who are making money off of people with developmental disabilities – and for that reason alone, I’m going to be voting no and it’s because I believe in listening to the parents of the folks that this will impact – thank you”
I would like to thank Representatives Dye and Caldier and the others who stood up and voiced an appreciation and understanding of the choices that we need in order to best serve and support our community members with significant disabilities.
Just paying these individuals more per hour will not erase their needs for supports and services.