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 – Mr. Shaun Bickley.

Mr. Bickley 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 Mr. Bickley 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.  Mr. Bickley 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.

Shaun Bickley – 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, Mr. Bickley’s current employer to inform them of this continued abuse.  I have asked for the immediate termination of Mr. Bickley 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.  Mr. Bickley 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 Shaun Bickley 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 Mr. Bickley 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

Commission of Bullies and Chaos

Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities – a commission that sounds as if it’s diverse, inclusive and collaborative has proven to be something else.  It has been a commission of bullies who falsify information to the public.

About the Commission page

  1.  I have requested meeting minutes be posted their website.  The Commission responded that it was up to the city to post the minutes, that they had been submitted.
  2. I requested copies of the meeting minutes through City of Seattle Public Records Request for the minutes from June 2017 through March 2018.  My response was returned “The records you requested have not been created and finalized by the commission because of lack of a quorum.  As a result, there are no existing records that match your search.”  (Office for Civil Rights)
  3. How is a city commission able to function for over 8 months without a quorum and also elect new co-chairs?  How can they function without meeting minutes?

This Commission needs to have some direction and oversight.  It is run by people of questionable motives with little understanding of some of the real issues facing our community members with significant cognitive and developmental disabilities.

My experience with this Commission has only been since July, 2017 when I found out about their agenda to eliminate special certificates .  By the time I had any information on this there had already been work done through the Office of Labor Standards. While I know there have been and still may be some people with integrity on the commission, they are not the ones that are making decisions and speaking on behalf of this commission.

From what I have seen since July 2017 bullying and causing chaos have been the behaviors that have been accepted by the commission.  The Commission roster has changed and there are new co-chairs.

Without having a quorum for at least 8 months I’m very curious how decision have been made and why there has not been a quorum.  How can new co-chairs be elected without a quorum?  What guidelines does this commission follow in managing their meetings and work?

April 30, 2018  –  Shaun Bickley (apparently co-chair) and Jessica Williams-Hall terms expire.

Meet the Commissioners April 2018

commission PwD roster changes 2017 through 2018

 

 

Shameful Seattle – CENSORED

Seattle Commission for PwD - please be accountableToday, Mayor Durkan, signed into law that Seattle has eliminated special certificates for disabled people to work for less than minimum wage.  Sounds like a great idea to encourage people to hire those with disabilities – that is, until you know the truth behind this legislation and the misinformation that was used to push it forward and make others believe it was the right thing to do.

While I fully support equal wages for equal work – regardless if one is disabled or not – I have great concerns about the lack of understanding of the complex issues involved in this legislation.  For the people affected by this legislation, community integration is as important, if not more important, than the wage they earn.

The Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities has so far been only mendacious in their replies to questions.  Also, as I was in the process of writing this post, I have again been blocked from the public Facebook Page for Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities.  Again, they refused to answer the questions and censored discussions.  Seattle PWD Censorship

 

Seattle Commission for PWD needs to be accountable and answer the questions.  Threats and accusations do not show accountability for decisions you have made.

Mayor Durkan was totally unable to answer the questions asked at the end of the press conference – either she knows the answer and is too embarrassed to say or she has no clue and bases her information on the lies she has been told by the commission.

 

 

Fallout: Loss of jobs and hours in Seattle

Social Justice Activists in the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities are showing how little they understand about the lives and choices of people with complex and profound intellectual and developmental disabilities.  With no planning in regards to transition for employees, employers, vocational training and job development, this commission has pushed for the rapid elimination of certificates which allow special wages for a certain population.

Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities

Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda and members of Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities

Specific employers to pay specific employees a specific wage for a specific job

These certificates are not a “catch-all” loop-hole to allow employers to pay any person with a disability less than the minimum wage.  The commission leads people and legislators to believe that these certificates are easy to get and allow employers to exploit their employees.  ACTIVISTS – PLEASE GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT

There is no “loop-hole” and there is no exploitation.  There is choice and alternatives that are based on an individual’s person-centered planning. These activists have literally pulled the rug out from under those who were employed with this certificate and those in the future who would have benefitted from this choice.  It is no longer available and there are no substitutes.

The people affected by this new law were working in integrated, community settings.  These jobs were a route to inclusion and community.  This is what people with disabilities and their advocates have been wanting.  Things were working well for the employee with a disability, the employer, the community and the family/caregivers of the employees.

That is until someone (Shaun Bickley – co-chair of Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities) threw a monkey wrench into the lives of people he does not know or understand.  Mr Bickley has greatly misinterpreted research on the issue, misinterprets the law behind the certificates and how they are used and totally disregards the choices of those most affected.  He has led community members and our City Council to believe these employees are exploited and has twisted the truth to outright lied about the situation in order to push his personal agenda.

Contrary to what Mr. Bickley claims,  there were many concerns voiced by people with disabilities and disability advocates against the elimination of the special certificates.  Unfortunately, Mr. Bickley does not think that these people have the right to voice an opinion and so discounts them.

What happened to “nothing about us, without us,”  Mr. Bickley?

 


There is inaccurate information regarding the sub-minimum wage laws and certificates, false information regarding the laws and actions in other states regarding sub-minimum wage and employment trends for people with intellectual disabilities.

SubminimumWageLetter from PWD commission


Social Justice?  Making people with disabilities unemployable in Seattle

Sub-minimum wage – godsend or exploitation?

Seattle has rapid elimination of sub-minimum wage

Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda – thank you for the concern you have for our community members with disabilities. While I understand this has just passed into law, I believe there was some very critical information that was left out, not addressed and misrepresented by members of the Seattle Commission for People with disAbilities .

The first issue is that these certificates are not “general purpose” to allow any employer to pay a person less than the minimum wage just because that person has a disability. They were for specific employers for specific employees for specific jobs. Generally, they are used for people with complex and often intellectual disabilities. It is an fact that those with intellectual disabilities, just be definition of the disability itself, may not be as productive as a person with a different type of disability – such as autism. Autism is NOT an intellectual disability but it is a developmental disability. This issue is one that the Seattle Commission for People with disAbilities has failed to acknowledge and understand.  (Particularly co-chair Shaun Bickley)

The second thing is that for people working in these job, they tend to work 10 hours or less a week and most often have a job coach to assist them in their job. The job coach may be 1:1 or only check in occasionally – depending on the support needs of the disabled person. The funding for the job coach is typically paid for through the Developmental Disabilities Administration through the counties. Without a job coach, many of these people would not be able to get and maintain employment.

One example of this is the issue of my son. He does work in a supported integrated employment setting within Seattle. He does earn a bit more than the minimum wage and works 9 hours a week with a 1:1 job coach. The vocational vendor agency is paid $2700 per month to provide the job coach for his 9 hours of work a week. If for some reason a job coach is sick or on vacation and they cannot get a sub, my son is not able to go to work that day.

For people like my son, they are not working at these jobs for their sole income and they all tend to live in poverty. They most likely receive SSI which will be reduced from the $750.00 to something less based on their earned income. Due to the earned wages my son makes, his SSI is reduced to $532.00. He then needs to pay rent, utilities, food, household necessities, clothes, healthcare supplies not covered by insurance, and other necessities of daily life out of his SSI and earned wages.

People like my son (who needs to have 1:1 supervision during all waking hours) are generally linked with several agencies, family members, friends (natural supports) a healthcare team, community members and paid support staff to navigate daily life. It is collaborative web that can work very well – until someone tweaks one part without working with the rest of the team and it can then all fall apart.

For instance, my son lives in supported living with 3 other disabled young adults. Luckily, their agency does provide a reliable van for them to use but they need to coordinate transportation based on the residents schedules. They are the ones who transport my son back and forth to work each morning since my son needs 1:1 hand off from his support staff to his job coach – Access bus is not an option – nor is any type of public transportation.

It’s extremely unfortunate that the Seattle Commission for People with disAbilities did little research on this issue and how it impacts the lives of those how work in these jobs. I have asked repeatedly for the research and Mr. Bickley has refused to provide it – but continues to refer to this non-existent research. I did provide the Seattle Commission for People with disAbilities with links to a report from the National Council on Disabilities which had clear outlines for a transition from sub-minimum wage to integrated employment and their timeline was from 2-10 years. Not a rapid, sudden elimination of certificates.

I also provided another very useful resource from the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation which had very useful discussions and resources on how to encourage and create integrated work for those with significant intellectual disabilities. Again, this looked at a period of transition and planning for funding to be stable and sustainable for the required job skill building and training of job coaches.

I do not believe that either of these extremely useful and national resources were even discussed at a commission meeting because their decision had been made and any information from a person who did not agree totally with the proposed agenda by Mr. Bickley was not brought to the table.  Mr. Bickley has stated many times that there was unanimous opinions regarding the elimination plan by disabled people and advocates denying the fact that there were many who had a different opinion.
Regarding other states who do not use certificates:

New Hampshire did not have any businesses using the certificates but updated their policies to officially end the practice if they were used. The minimum wage in New Hampshire just $7.25 an hour and disabled people can be paid less if part of an approved work training program.

According to the NH Developmental Services Employment Data Report – the average number of hours worked a week is 11 and the average weekly pay is $92.73. More than 50% of the jobs are 2-9 hours per week.

A case study of the transition from sheltered workshops to integrated employment of disabled people in Maine done by the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, Department of Health Policy and Management highlighted the fact that when people leave the sheltered workshop, many work fewer hours per week and make less money than if they remained in the sheltered workshop.

Alaska recently banned the subminimum wage. Robert Dinerstein, a law professor at American University and director of the schools’ Disability Rights Law Clinic believes that Alaska will be able to accomplish an integrated work force by giving workers a job coach who goes to work with the person for the first month to help them “learn the ropes.” Evidently this professor does not understand the fact that some people may need the 1:1 support to remain employed – it’s not a “learn the ropes” and then on their merry, independent way.

Maryland has a 4 year phase out of “sheltered workshops” which they hope to have completed by 2020. The plan involves moving people from sheltered workshops to competitive integrated employment. Each individual making less than minimum wage will receive an individual plan for the phase out.

According to the United States Department of Labor “Subminimum wages must be commensurate wage rates – based on the worker’s individual productivity, no matter how limited, in proportion to the wage and productivity of experienced workers who do not have disabilities performing essentially the same type, quality, and quantity of work in the geographic area from which the labor force of the community is drawn. ”

The documentary “Bottom Dollars” by Disability Rights Washington and Rooted in Rights states “If people are given the proper services and supports and proper assistive technology, the sky is the limit for many, many individuals.” This I believe to be true but there is a big IF and that included funding needs to provide supports and sustain them. Did the Commission for PwD look at these issues?

Please ask the Seattle Commission for People with disAbilities  about the research they have done and the transition plan they have developed for our citizens in Seattle.

Seattle Outlaws Subminimum Wage

Council votes to eliminate sub-minimum wage

Seattle bans lower wages

Seattle minimum wage law causes loss of jobs for people with IDD

Last year, the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities, decided that Seattle needed to eliminate the special certificates that employers could utilize that would allow them to pay specific employees with specific disabilities a wage less than the minimum wage for specific jobs.  Typically, these jobs are based on productivity.  Many times people with profound intellectual and complex disabilities are not as productive as a non-disabled peer.  This is not an ableist comment but one of fact.  It’s not a matter of just teaching someone a skill but one of providing appropriate supports to enable integration for those who need support.

Then Mayor Ed Murray, stated ““The point of our historic $15 minimum wage law was to build universal equity in Seattle,” said Murray, according to a press release. “A loophole allowing subminimum wages for disabled workers has undermined that goal. We are correcting that error to make good on our promise and our values.” (Seattle Weekly, August 18, 2017.)

It’s unfortunate that this population already is greatly under-employed and also unfortunately, legislating higher pay for less productive work, will only make the unemployment rate for this population higher.  This decision lacked understanding of the support needs and various services utilized by this population, disregarded research done on the national level for well planned and funded transition plans which could provide stable and sustainable employment for people with complex disabilities.

Typically, for jobs under these certificates, the employees work 10 hours or less a week.  Many times there is a job coach involved – anywhere from 1:1 at all times to just checking in “once and awhile”. (The job coach is not paid by the employer but usually through public funds or grants through the Medicaid services or waivers) The wages the employee earns are reported to Social Security Administration and their monthly SSI check is reduced based on a formula and their earned wages.  These people live in poverty.

I contacted the employers and employees in Seattle who were affected by this law.

One employee did have her hours cut from 15 to 12 hours a week.  The employer believed that this employee was only about 75% as productive as her non-disabled peers and it was not fair to the other employees to pay the same rate.  So the employer did raise the wage to minimum wage but reduced her hours.  She is now looking for another job to replace the hours she is missing.  This employee has a job coach who checks in occasionally or when needed but is not on site for her regular hours at work.

Another employer stated that they did raise the wage to the minimum wage but it is a hardship.  This employee works 6 hours a week and has a job coach that is occasionally on site.  The employee’s hours were not cut but the employer did say that they would not be able to hire other employees with complex disabilities due to this new law and therefore it is harmful for the future by limiting options.

I am still in the process of interviewing employers and employees regarding this law and how it has affected them and what they think the future may look like. So far, it appears this law was more harmful than beneficial.

It is often believed that the people who work these jobs are working full time and toiling away for pennies an hour.  This is far from the real situation.  The special certificates allow choice and options for both employees and employers.  They are not intended to be used to hire disabled people in order to pay them less but used to encourage integration and employment of people with complex and intellectual disabilities.

This is social justice gone awry .

 

 

 

 

Sub-minimum wage in Seattle update coming soon

Seattle eliminated the ability of employers to utilize special certificates that could enable some profoundly disabled citizens to be employed.

Some history of this decision can be found in this Seattle Times Article from August, 2017

Shaun Bickley, Seattle Commissioner for People with Disabilities, commented many times that NO ONE would lose their job with the elimination of the sub-minimum wage law.

I have written to the Commission on several occasions asking for their research in addition to providing some well documented national reports with clear guidelines for a transition.  Unfortunately, the Commission was not able to produce any of their research and I never did receive a repose to discuss a transition plan for such a rapid elimination the special certificates.  Below is a comment that I posted to the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities page on October 16, 2017.

 I have written to all Councilpersons regarding my questions about this recommendation and have received a very odd response from Alex Clardy, Legislative Assistant for Councilperson Herbold.

One quote from the letter is ” The PwD Commission received no comment opposing the elimination of the subminimum wage certificates. Some people contacted Councilmember Herbold’s office concerned that people need the subminimum wage to get jobs. Yet, no people with disabilities contacted Councilmember Herbold’s office to say so” This is absolutely not true. There were many letters that were written in opposition to the recommendation.

Also, the letter contained information that had been provided to the council by the commission with statements of “evidence”. There are no references included and I have asked previously to have the sources of the research that was done during the “4 month review of Seattle’s policies and practices.”

I have also provided resources to the commission from the National Council on Disabilities and their quite extensive review of sub-minimum wage certificates and their concerns regarding elimination together with an extended timeline to phase certificates out. This recommendation is extremely different than the approach that the Seattle Commission has recommended.

In addition to the phase out, what planning for funding, transportation, job coaching, job skill building and other services for transition have been planned for this rapid elimination recommended by the Commission?

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.

Please contact me so that I may review the resources and data that the Commission used in the 4-month study and send an outline of a transition plan covering some of the issues mentioned above”

I am finishing up some interviews with employers, employees, families, caregivers, guardians and will post the information soon.

Commensurate wage information from US Dept. of Labor