Elimination of Special Certificates

The issue of the elimination of the special certificates for people with disabilities has been very controversial.  There have been many problems related to lack of transparency and accountability on the part of the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities.

Many attempts to have a conversation with the Commission and collaborate have been denied which is a violation of The constitution of the United States, First Amendment.

The First Amendment provides individuals with the right to engage in protected speech without government interference. If a local government establishes a social media site to communicate with the public about agency business, the First Amendment will apply to the comments and posts made by others on that site.

So, the moderator of the agency page cannot simply delete, hide or block posts or people based solely on the content of the message that was posted.

The Commission blocked, censored and harassed community members, disability advocates, people with disabilities and stakeholders who had concerns and/or questions from interacting on the Commission’s public Facebook page.   This exclusion by the public entity of the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities of the very people the Commission was set up to advocate for is an extreme example which is becoming all to common.

When ideology is used without consideration of other viewpoints as the sole decision making process, there can be many unintended consequences.  A healthy debate with varying viewpoints and a rational analysis to problem solve in the decision making process can help to mitigate the abuse of power that is used when decisions are based solely on ideology.  People do not have to agree but when there are discussions we can all learn something.

Many problems have been encountered in this process and I question the legality of the decisions that have been made when proper procedures were not followed.

  1.  June 2017 was the first mention of any issue of the elimination of the special certificates for people with disabilities according to the Commission’s meeting minutes.
  2. A quorum was not achieved at the June 2017 meeting in which the Commission reports they had a unanimous vote to eliminate the special certificates.
  3. According to the by-laws of the Commission they need a majority of appointed Commissioners  present in order to have a quorum.  During June 2017 there were 13 appointed Commissioners – they would have needed 7 Commissioners present for a quorum – they only had 6.  This means they would not have been able to have a meeting or a vote.
    • A Quorum needs to be present in order to have a vote
    • The so-called “unanimous vote” was actually invalid according to the Commission by-laws
    • June 15, 2017 minutes PwD
  4.  It was reported in July 2017 by the Mayor and Councilmember Herbold that there had been a unanimous vote by the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities.  This article states that the Office of Labor Standards will begin rule revisions and a City Council vote before the end of the year.
  5. Revisions proposed to the City of Seattle’s Minimum wage rule – eliminating subminimum wages for employees with disabilities – August 17, 2017
  6. First public notice from OLS regarding Special Certificates requesting public comments – unfortunatley, the decision had already been made by former OLS Director Dylan Orr, Former Mayor Murray and Councilmember Herbold.  Was the information shared during legislative meetings in June 2017 by Commissioners Shaun Bickley and Matt Kanter representative of the community they represent?
  7. Office of Labor Standards (OLS) received the most comments on this issue than any other rule revision comment request in the past.  They received 70 responses and it had been reported that there was a “slight” preference for the elimination of the certificates.  (later found to be false when records were reviewed – see below)
  8. OLS announces Final Rule September 29, 2017
  9. If you submitted a comment you most likely received the following email from Karina Bull from OLS about September 30, 2017 with a copy of the Press Release dated September 29, 2017.

From: Bull, Karina

Sent: Saturday, September 30, 2017 7:15 AM

To: Bull, Karina <Karina.Bull@seattle.gov>

Subject: OLS Issues Final Rule Revisions for Seattle’s Minimum Wage Ordinance

Greetings,

Thank you for submitting a comment to inform our rulemaking process for subminimum wages for people with disabilities. We carefully considered all comments and sincerely appreciate your contribution to this process. Yesterday, our office announced the final rules; the announcement is below.

 

Again, thank you for your participation.

 

Regards,

 

Karina

Karina Bull

Policy Manager

City of Seattle | Office of Labor Standards

 

 

810 Third Avenue, Suite 375

 

Seattle, WA 98104-1627

 

Phone: 206-684-4536

 

karina.bull@seattle.gov

 

10. Given lack of transparency and accountability in this legislation, I began to do more research into how the decision had come to be made.

11.  Seventy comments were received by OLS – 33 (or 18 if duplicate scripts are not counted) were in favor of elimination of certificates; 37 were against elimination of certificates.  Clearly far from unanimous and from my perspective indicates there needs to be more research done on the issue.

12.  There were 15 comments which were identical to the script template that Commissioner Shaun Bickley had sent out and tagged many people on Social Media sites to send in to bolster his project –  45% of the comments in favor of elimination were this exact script.

 

[suggested script]  

Dear Ms. Bull  

I am writing to express solidarity with the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities’ recommendations to end subminimum wage and the use of subminimum wage certificates in Seattle.  

As you know, the Commission conducted an extensive four-month review, and received overwhelming support for this course of action from both community members with disabilities and disability organizations. They also contacted the workers making subminimum wage along with their family members and employers, who have all agreed to this timeline.  

I believe that we should listen to people with disabilities, especially those with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are most impacted by this. They know what they need and we should support them and applaud them in their quest for equality before the law.  

I look forward to Seattle becoming the first location on the west coast to grant wage equality to workers with disabilities, and in finally ending this blatantly discriminatory practice.  

Sincerely,  

(Name)  

(Resident of Seattle, connection, etc)  

13.   Comment received from Karina Bull, Policy Manager of Office of Labor Standards regarding the corrections to the reported facts on the OLS comments.

Our office carefully reviewed the outpour of comments in favor of retaining subminimum wage, as well as the outpour of comments in favor of prohibiting the subminimum wage. Ultimately, the final rule was reached with strong support of our former Director, Dylan Orr, former Mayor Murray, and Councilmember Herbold. The more recent decision to codify this prohibition in our Minimum Wage ordinance was passed by City Council, 8-0 

14.   My view of this is that the comments sent in were basically meaningless in the decision making process.    I do not know what information Dylan Orr used  but I do believe that both former Mayor Murray and Councilmember Herbold were not provided with accurate information on the issue.  Again, the saying “Nothing about us, without us” was disregarded in this legislation.

Where is the accountability for the actions taken by this renegade Commission?  Do they represent what you need?  If not, join me in attending their meetings and providing much needed common sense and input.

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 .