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.

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

“We Did It” (not)

We did it

Seattle passes elimination of special certificates – leads to job losses for people with disabilities

Injustice – this law certainly is.  It was propelled through a rapid process with little thought, planning or research done.   The backers of it told half-truths at best to out-right lies about the people it affected, will affect and their research.  They refused to answer critical questions from concerned advocates and community members, harassed and wrote libelous comments about people who disagreed with their “cause.”

One would think that the Seattle Commission would be a little more concerned about the fall-out from their victory – but given that the Commission has no clue about what it takes for job development, job skill building, appropriate supports and funding for those supports too be sustained, they apparently think that magic will happen and jobs will appear because of this law.  They think their job is done.

Now we can clean up their mess. 

The 2017 Commission for PwD had an Employment Committee with some great goals – although elimination of the special certificates was not among those goals.  I’m not sure when and how that became the goal but it appears that the other goals were forgotten.

Employment Committee

The fact that the Commission for PwD has no follow up or evaluation process it is up to others to do that.  The lies continue – coming from both people on the commission and the Mayor.

Since the Commission for PwD no longer has an Employment Committee, they can sit back and pat themselves on the back for their wonderful work.   I think they need to be held accountable to their actions  – I’m trying to get the information out but it’s hard when I’m blocked and censored.

My son and I went to their meeting yesterday to give a Public Comment to The Commission for People with Disabilities April 19 2018.  Even though we were there at the published time for the start of the meeting and public comments, the Commission was already on their 3rd or 4th agenda item, no sign in sheet and no acknowledgement.

They make it very difficult to be involved in processes which affect our community members – curious how they think they are meeting their purpose of accountability and working with the community on issues that concern them.

accountable to community

Below are just a couple of the outright lies that the now Co-Chair of the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities wrote:

“The Commission IS disabled people, half with I/DD, several with intellectual disabilities.  We had testimony from disabled people and family members across the city, all in support.  We have already worked with the families and employers affected by this legislation, all of whom supported and consented to it.  

Don’t make assumptions and assume the disabled people are too stupid to decide what we need or to collaborate with other disabled people.”

 

“That’s why the rule change, proposed and advocated for by people with I/DD is so fantastic.  Your assumptions are just that:  assumptions that have no basis in fact.  I’m not college-educated and we have multiple members with ID and I/DD – just because you don’t agree with our conclusions doesn’t invalid our experiences.  

BTW, we worked not just with disabled community members but with the workers, their families, and employers, all of whom agreed to this change, none of whom are losing their jobs.  Please don’t make assumptions about us or decide what we need without talking to us. “

Commission for PwD Discriminates against those with IDD

https://seattle.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=5215197&GUID=132D578C-0E3D-4B68-A1B2-FDCB1FFA841F

Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities – Accountability to the Community

Last week, Mayor Jenny Durkan signed into law that Seattle will no longer issues special certificates to allow specific employers to hire specific employees to do a specific job for a wage that may be less than minimum wage.  These certificates typically were used by employers as an accommodation to allow them to hire people with significant disabilities that interfere with their ability to be as productive as a non-disabled peer.

For the people who worked under these certificates the job is much more than a wage to them.  The people involved typically work 2-25 hours a week, also received SSI cash benefits (which are then reduced somewhat with the earned wages  – see formula for this reduction below) and other supports in the community and home to assist them in activities of daily living and community integration.

This legislation was based on lies propagated by the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities.  The information they used to push this harmful agenda was also a series of half-truths with censorship of concerns leading this group to say there was unanimous agreement among disabled people .

It is true that this request for information sent out from the Office of Labor Standards generated the most response they have received on any request.  But the information shared by the Commission, and in particular Shaun Bickley, co-chair, took this a bit further into an outright lie.

The proposal to kill the exemption has generated “the largest amount of discussion the Disability Commission has ever received on a topic,” according to the letter. Subminimum wage is overwhelmingly opposed by workers with disabilities.” Commissioner Shaun Bickley says, he’s unaware of public opposition to the rule change

(From Seattle Weekly, August 18, 2017)

While Mr. Bickley tends to lies,  Karina Bull, Policy Manager for Seattle Office of Labor Standards, reports a different account in this Housing, Health, Energy and Worker’s Rights Committee meeting dated March 29, 2018, She states “we had our  most robust rule making processes.  We received more comments for this change than we have for any other – we had almost 70 people respond with a slight preference for prohibiting the practice of sub-minimum wage for people with a disability. 

“Thank you for writing Councilmember Herbold regarding the subminimum wage issue. The Seattle Commission for People with DisAbilities (PwD) conducted a four-month review of Seattle’s policy and practice as well as held a public comment session to hear from the community and organizations. Additionally, they reached out to all the businesses that currently utilize the subminimum wage. 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.  Since the PwD Commission, through their individual lived experiences, can speak to these issues best, Councilmember Herbold asked that I share with you excerpts from the PwD Commission letter that outlines several specific points as evidence against these concerns specifically and opposing the subminimum wage as a policy.  ”  (from correspondence with Alex Clardy,  Legislative Assistant to Councilmember Lisa Herbold)

Of note, the PwD Commission just copied/pasted part of a report from the APSE Advancing Employment Connecting People  (The Association of People Supporting Employment First) without understanding the background and other recommendations in the bullet points shared.

Mr. Bickley and the Commission for PwD also lied about the numbers of people involved and their wages.   The total lack of understanding of what these jobs mean to the people actually involved is an outright act of discrimination.

Mr. Bickley, refuses to provide answers to critical questions with this legislation and the supposed research that was done.  Given that there was a transition plan for the enactment of the minimum wage law in Seattle and all the research that I have read on this issue (including the 3 reports the Commission used as their research) reports there needs to be a well planned and funded transition plan in place prior to elimination of special certificates.  Where is the transition plan and phase in of this legislation?  It appears that was not considered and there were immediate changes made which were harmful to those involved.

Unfortunately, again in an act of discrimination, there has been an elimination of these special certificates with no transition plan (at least that I have been aware even given my multiple requests for information on this issue).  Mr. Bickley’s responses to me on this issue accuse me of lying and spreading false information and publishing personal attacks and libel.

The interactions I have had with Mr. Bickley have been most frustrating.  Below are some of the first comments and interactions I had with him in my attempts to learn about the legislation.  I had been blocked from the Commission for PwD Facebook page so shared this to my personal page to which Shaun Bickley made these comments.

Cheryl Felak shared a post.

It needs to be noted that not ONE person on this commission has an intellectual and developmental disability and they do not understand the issues involved with the need for these certificates or that we all need to have choice and these certificates provide some choice for those who would be unable to work if they did not exist.

Another article about the Commission’s work in ending subminimum wage in Seattle.

About this article

 

Some workers now make 36 cents an hour, according to the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities.
SEATTLEWEEKLY.COM
Maura Wachsberger
Maura Wachsberger Out of the 120 people who lost their jobs at my agency, 3 have jobs. All are part time and 2 out of the 3 are 1 hour a month. People are so angry and upset that there is no option for them to work. Makes me furious! It’s so obvious that it’s ridiculous!!!!! Keep options open!!!
Cheryl Felak

Cheryl Felak I plan on going to their next meeting – probably will get shouted down because I’m a guardian and according to this group do not speak for my son.

Seattle Commission for People with disAbilities
Seattle Commission for People with disAbilities Commission meetings are open to the public. Members of the public get 2 minutes for comment. You are welcome to attend, but I would appreciate you not spreading misinformation about the Commission as there are multiple members with intellectual and developmental disabilities even if you don’t like what we have to say.
Maura Wachsberger
Maura Wachsberger Sounds like you don’t like what Cheryl has to say.
Bonnie Sullivan
Bonnie Sullivan That’s a two-way street. Since she knows her son best she should be respected for that knowledge.
Carol Jackson Fenske
Carol Jackson Fenske …so why was she blocked from your comments section for talking about her son?
Cheryl Felak
Cheryl Felak since I am not able to make comments on the Seattle Commission for People with disAbilities Facebook page or reply to the comment you made on my page, I would like to know who you are who is responding to me. I’m not spreading misinformation, I have taken information from your own website – if it is wrong, please correct it.
Shaun Bickley

Shaun Bickley I’m not sure why you can’t respond when you can share from the page but okay. You’ve already been told that multiple members have an I/DD. I told you I did (I don’t see myself in that wall of text). Not everyone on the Commission is verbal. Multiple people with ID/IDD submitted testimony on this issue. Just because you don’t like what we have to say doesn’t mean it’s okay to pretend we’re not I/DD.

Post what you like, I would just appreciate you not spreading misinformation especially when disabled advocates have told you otherwise.

Cheryl Felak

Cheryl Felak Shaun Bickley Thank you for your response. I’m sorry but the testimonies are not on the website and the meeting minutes state that business and families declined testimony. There is quite a bit of misinformation that is being shared by this committee and when people who have questions about some of these issues are blocked from comments it perpetuates the spread of the false information.

Also, the tone of your writing is very disrespectful and undiplomatic. Accusing a guardian of not understanding the issues involved of living with a disability and denying the guardian the ability to perform their court appointed and legal responsibility is discrimination against those who have chosen to have a guardian.

Shaun Bickley

Shaun Bickley Declined public testimony. We still talked to them. OLS has talked to them. No one is objecting except people like you who aren’t impacted by it.

If I need a plumber, I’m going to talk to someone who understands the issue, not someone who lives with aplumber. If I want to hear about women’s health experiences I’m not going call and center husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons. Living around DD person is not interchangeable with BEING a DD person and I’m sorry if this is the first time anyone’s told you that.

And if I can level with you, suggesting you’re going to go to a meeting to shout down disabled people is pretty scary. Just because you can observe or make comment doesn’t mean you have a right to shout at people, to disrupt the meeting or to intimidate people.

Shaun Bickley

Shaun Bickley I’m not particularly interested in debating whether you subsume your child’s personhood here or anywhere else. If you want to see the letter the Commission wrote to the City Council dated June 21 it should be on the FB page. You’re free to submit comment on this or something else. I just ask that you not spread misinformation about people and that you not come to the meeting with the intention of shouting people down. Several of us have been in institutional/segregated settings or experienced violence at the hands of caregivers, so that kind of tone is an unwelcome abuse of power.

Cheryl Felak

Cheryl Felak Shaun Bickley Again, you have totally misinterpreted what I said – I never said that I would shout but that I would be shouted down – big difference.

Cheryl Felak
Cheryl Felak Shaun Bickley interesting that you assume that I am not impacted by this recommendation. You have made many assumptions and I would suggest that you listen and have a conversation with others who may have a different perspective than your view. There are ways to work together.
Shaun Bickley

Shaun Bickley You are not impacted. Every worker and family member who will be impacted by this change has been talked to already. I know their names, you are not one of them. At best this is a hypothetical option you wanted for someone else, but that’s not the same as being paid subminimum wage or even supporting a family member who is.

I appreciate the clarification re: shouting. Nobody needs to shout, there hasn’t been any shouting yet.

Cheryl Felak

Cheryl Felak Shaun Bickley I’m sorry that you have many misunderstandings regarding this issue and who it will impact – now or in the future. I am very interesting in reading the studies and testimonies of those who have submitted them. Are they referenced on the website too.

Cheryl Felak

Cheryl Felak Shaun Bickley the issue is much more complex than the minimum wage aspect and the impacts of such an elimination of choice will be far reaching. I would urge a more thorough investigation and study of the topic.

Have you or other commissioners looked at an overall increase in costs that may result from an increased need for more intense employment supports or other opportunities to help those with IDD interact and be involved in their communities?

Shaun Bickley

Shaun Bickley Cheryl Felak I will email you information if you’d like to provide it. However:

1) You still have a post up claiming that no one on the Commission has an I/DD when you’ve been told otherwise. That is lying.
2) It’s incredibly creepy that you’ve put up a public post listing out everyone on the Commission and whether or not you think they’re actually disabled. This is bordering on stalking behavior.

It’s kind of ironic because by virtue of BEING on a Commission you’ve automatically assumed that everyone there is Not Like Your Child, but actually listing out and evaluating non-elected, unpaid disabled volunteers is super sleazy.

Cheryl Felak

Cheryl Felak Which of the people on the commission have an intellectual and developmental disability? I see other disabilities but none that are intellectual and developmental. It’s interesting that the website gives these bios of the people – I was curious who made up the commission and so I read what was on the website. If it is incorrect than take it up with whoever from the commission posted the incorrect information.

I do not recall my ever giving an opinion if I thought the people on the commission had a disability or not – that is something that you have imagined. I did say that not ONE has an intellectual and developmental disability and I believe that is the case.

Shaun Bickley
Shaun Bickley It’s none of your business. I told you I’m not going to give you people’s diagnosis information. I am. Multiple others are. It’s fair to ask if anyone has an I/DD but it’s not appropriate to expect detailed personal information.
Cheryl Felak
Cheryl Felak So no one has IDD – I’m sorry but having a diagnosis of autism is not the same as intellectual/developmental disability. I would think that you would be aware of that. Maybe you are not aware of what an intellectual/developmental disability is if you believe that the people listed on the website have this combined disability.
 
Shaun Bickley

Shaun Bickley Autism is a developmental disability. Maybe a trip down wikipedia would be helpful to your level of information.

Yes, several people have both intellectual and developmental disabilities. The fact that you don’t like what we have to say doesn’t change that. Your behavior is disgusting, if you do feel the need to come please limit your interaction with me to something professional instead of screeching about what you think people’s disabilities are and are not.

Cheryl Felak
Cheryl Felak I am fully aware that autism is a developmental disability – as is cerebral palsy and other disabilities. But I have a hard time believing that people with advanced college degrees have an intellectual disability.
Carol Jackson Fenske

Carol Jackson Fenske Shaun Bickley But why, why are you quoted in the Seattle Weekly as having had NO negative response to your initiative? Looks/sounds like misrepresentation to me. Perhaps you don’t really know what it’s like to spend 20-30 years of your life totally focused on a loved one with severe disabilities, advocating every single day for what seems to make them happy? Maybe that loved one is able to communicate, but not to strangers, and not in a way that would be understandable to a stranger. Cut us a little slack here, really.

Maura Wachsberger I have never seen such unprofessional responses from someone who represents a government agency. At least in NY they pretend to listen to us before they ignore us. It’s not people first, it’s money first and closing this option for people who truly need it will save money. Terrible!

 

https://seattle.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=5215197&GUID=132D578C-0E3D-4B68-A1B2-FDCB1FFA841F

Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities – Accountability to the Community

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.

 

 

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 .