More subminimum wage – can we just get real

EHB 1706 sits in the Senate Rules Committee.  As long as it’s in Rules committee there is still some hope that reality will set in that this bill not only short-sighted but harmful.

I am writing with some major concerns regarding issues with EHB 1706. While this bill may have started with good-intentions, it is extremely short sighted regarding the complexity and collaboration needed in any supports addressing the needs of our disabled population affected by significant intellectual and developmental disabilities. Contrary to what has been said in hearings, it is not common practice to pay disabled people less than minimum wage. It is not common practice to use special certificates for a commensurate wage.

Special certificates for a commensurate wage are not the same thing as “warehousing people in sheltered workshops”. Special certificates do allow a choice and alternative for those who may not be able to work independently in a competitive market or for those who enjoy the camaraderie of working with peers.

We no longer have sheltered workshops in our state but these certificates are very much desired by those who chose to work in group integrated employment in community settings. Person-centered planning and adherence to the Olmstead decision regarding choice are issues that would be violated if this alternative was removed from a smorgasbord of opportunities that people with significance disabilities may choose from. Again, the issue is choice. No one is forced to use these and they are not common practice – but for those who do choose to use them, this opportunity can be life saving. Why take this away?

Other concerns regarding the issues of supported employment in our state – if the support is considered only short-term until the employee is able to be independent or the employer builds in enough “natural supports” so that the employee does not need a job coach, this will lead to even more unemployment in this population. Unfortunately, I know this too well given issues with my son who works in supported employment with a 1:1 job coach. This is not something that he will “outgrow” but a support that he will need the rest of his life. Is he going to be the victim of this policy when it is decided that job supports are no longer needed because he’s had enough time to learn the job?

It is not common practice to pay people with disabilities less than minimum wage. These special certificates are for specific employers, specific jobs, specific employees and for a specific, limited time. It is common practice to pay people with disabilities minimum wage or higher but their work hours are greatly reduced. For instance, my son works in supported employment in a competitive integrated job – he earns $16.58 an hour – a great wage for him. He only works 7.5 hours a week. This is also great for him because of his disability – working more hours a day would be disastrous for him.

While this bill seemed to have good intentions – it is extremely short sighted. There was a failure to even address the recent JLARC report which addresses how few hours disabled people work and less than 10% make a “living wage.” DDA intends that its services provide quality of life benefits for clients, such as choice, relationships, integration in the community, and competence., however there are no evaluations that are done to measure if this outcome is met.

We hear from an affiliate of the national Arc Agency that Washington ranks highest percentage of “employment and day services clients” enrolled in employment services. (87%) But – “Not all clients who receive employment services have a job” which is very clear when scouring the data reported by the county contracted providers ( https://www.statedata.info/washington-ddd/) When one of the affiliates testified that working under a certificate was something that was forced on them by “well meaning do-gooders”, it inhibits their growth as employees, chances of advancement and their ability to support themselves and live off of public assistance. This person is speaking from a totally different reality and perspective than that of the people who have chosen to work under a certificate or of a person, like my son, who while able to learn and function with appropriate supports, will never be independent, able to support himself or live off of public assistance. We need to face reality and this bill is not the way to do that.
Below are just a few bullet points from the JLARC report that need to be taken into consideration:

JLARC staff analyzed DDA data for the 6,975 clients enrolled in individual supported employment during fiscal year 2018.

• 675 clients (10%) earned more than the federal poverty level ($12,140 per year for a single person).
• Earnings vary by support needs. 2 Clients with lower support needs tend to earn more wages.
• 44% of clients with high support needs were unemployed. This is double the rate for clients with medium support needs and five times the rate for clients with low support needs.
• Clients with high support needs who were employed worked 21 hours per month on average. This is less than half the average hours for clients with medium support needs, and a quarter of the hours for the clients with low support needs.
• 99% of clients with high support needs earned less than the federal poverty level.

Addressing this issue only from the Department of Labor viewpoint totally misses the collaboration needed to provide appropriate supports for our disabled community members and I find this approach extremely harmful to those people it was supposed to help. The misinformation used and biased opinions heard regarding choices and alternatives for those with significant disabilities has been ridiculed and dismissed as “living in fear”. I and others who live this life challenge you to listen to those who are actually affected by these policies – not necessarily the people you are hearing from. We need an opportunity to be heard too but when we are censored and blocked from the affiliate agency, it appears to legislators that we do not exist.

Our hope is that this will change. We are gathering people who have first hand knowledge of the issues and how these policies are actually hurting, rather than helping those we live with, care for and love.
=

HB 1706 – another striker bill

 

Change Improvement Development Adjust Transform Concept

Change Improvement Development Adjust Transform Concept

Very interesting hearing today in the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee regarding EHB 1706.  A packed house with people from all over the state to testify against the bill as written – self advocates, healthcare professionals, parents, guardians and other advocates.  There were also the usual people/organizations who were there to testify in support of EHB 1706 but their voices have already been heard.  It was refreshing to hear some new perspective on issues that affect us and those we work with, live with and love.

One hour of testimony with 1 minute each, one after the other as fast as could be done.  All people were then asked to leave the room and there was an executive session – The outcome was passing  EHB 1706 striker April 1 2019  with a vote of 5 -1.

Some notes from the Fiscal note which actually does indicate there will be a fiscal impact to this legislation:

Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA)
It is assumed that only individuals eligible to receive Individualized Technical Assistance services under an existing DSHS Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) program will receive Individualized Technical Assistance services due to an expiring Special Certificate. It is estimated that 421 eligible DDA clients will receive the Individualized Technical Assistance specified in this legislation. It is assumed:
•Each client will receive 20 hours of Individualized Technical Assistance
•Individualized Technical Assistance cost is $130 per hour
•The 421 clients will be provided services between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2021

One FTE (WMS Band 1) will be needed between July 1, 2019 and September 30, 2021 to:
•Coordinate with the Department of Labor and Industries
•Prioritize clients for services
•Determine service options for clients
•Track client progress
•Accumulate and organize the data required to be reported in Section 5 of this legislation
•Prepare the required reports
Total cost for this FTE is estimated at:
Fiscal Year 2020: $126,000 ($72,000 GF-State)
Fiscal Year 2021: $120,000 ($68,000 GF-State)
Fiscal Year 2022: $ 30,000 ($17,000 GF-State)
Total Costs:
Fiscal Year 2020: $674,000 ($401,000 GF-State)
Fiscal Year 2021: $668,000 ($397,000 GF-State)
Fiscal Year 2022: $ 30,000 ($17,000 GF-State)

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR)
The DSHS Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) may see an increase in the number of DDA clients referred for services. However, it is assumed that the increased referrals will not be significant and the related costs can be absorbed within existing resources.

All in all a step in the right direction and some indication that the voices of those actually affected is beginning to be heard – a victory so far in that there have been some crucial corrections made – still some issues to work out.

April 1 testimony opposing HB 1706

What does L&I know about DDA funding?

I had an interesting discussion with one of the DDA agency contacts regarding data on employment for DDA clients.  It was very enlightening and also very concerning at the same time.

The fact that there really is no accurate, up-to-date information is cause for concern.  The data on the 2018 DDA Caseload and Cost report is incorrect – but at the same time, data that other organizations are regurgitating are also incorrect.  In fact,  Washington State Labor & Industries, which apparently does not communicate with DDA is providing information to legislators (Representative Noel Frame and Senator Emily Randall, maybe others too) stating there are less than 350 people with special certificates in the state and one reason that the fiscal note for HB 1706 is that it apparently is a fiscal note for Labor & Industries.  That makes sense it would be zero because not needing to review and approve certificates means less work and no funds will be needed.

The US Dept. of Labor lists 1051 federal special certificates for Washington.  The DDA representative said that there may be around 500-600 people who are earning less than minimum wage and that not all have special certificates through L&I for various reasons.  Also, some of these DDA clients  may be self employed and that adds another piece to the puzzle.

Now, if L&I communicated with DDA or other organizations and agencies, there would be a different bill and a different fiscal note. But until the silos are broken down, things will not improve.

What I did learn tough is that the contracted providers with the counties upload their data every month to the website.  DDA checks it to ensure data is being uploaded correctly – corrections are to be made but the providers can only access the website once a month so corrections need to wait until the next month when the provider uploads again and at the same time they should go through and make all the needed corrections.  Information is constantly changing but the further out one is from a point in time, the chances are that the information will be more accurate.

It was good to get validation that the information as shared on the DDA State Data website which has the category “gross wages > Zero” should not be translated as “wages minimum or greater” as they have been translated somewhere along the line from DDA to The Arc of King County who shared their data.  Hopefully this will be corrected and that will be a start.

But, no matter how many people are actually earning a subminimum wage, taking away that choice of theirs, if it is their choice, is a violation of their civil rights.  No one knows unless those affected people are asked and I would like to see the information regarding the choices of those actually affected now and also I would like to hear from the people who have been forced from their jobs in the past two years during this transition.  Those are the voices that matter.

wa-dda-employment-data-king-county.jpg

 

DDA data used by Arc of King County

Civil Rights, Subminimum wage and choice

There are many things to be considered when one is looking at eliminating the special certificates. The certificates are entered into by choice by the employer and the employee and look at a specific employee with a specific disability for a specific job for specific wage for a specific amount of time. There is absolutely no exploitation taking place and this is fully legal and actually quite desired by many who have been able to be employed under the certificates

The Push to End Subminimum Wage Remains Divisive (Disability Scoop)

Mr. Lemus is hardly an expert in the area and though people may appreciate the fact that he feels worried he really has nothing to be worried about when looking at what the parents and the disabled persons expectations and goals are. As legal guardians for people with disabilities the guardians and the person have gone through a court and medical process which has concluded that the person is best represented through the legal process of obtaining a legal guardian. The legal guardian has a legal duty which has been bestowed upon them through the courts to act in their persons best interest and to speak up and interpret the choices of the person they represent. This scrutiny provides a much better understanding of a persons needs and choices than Lemus and others like him who “worry”.  Mr Lemus states he was diagnosed in 2003 with a mild developmental disability.  By the very fact that Mr. Lemus is able to verbalize that he can understand what a hard job it is for parents and how difficult it was for his parents, indicates a higher level of thought processing (the ability to have abstract thoughts) than many of the people I know and work with have.  With the ability to have abstract thought, Lemus should also be able to understand that people are different and not all have the same level of or type of disability.  This is why it is so critical to listen to the legal guardians who do have a very good understanding of the support needs and choices of the person they represent.

This legal obligation is often ridiculed by Mr. Lemus and Shaun Bickley who routinely discount the legal obligations of the guardians. In denying the legal guardian a place at the stakeholder podium for the person they represent is a violation the civil rights of the person they represent. This violation is repeated over and over again by the likes of so-called advocates like Lemus and Bickley, in addition to agencies such as the Arc agencies, Self Advocates in Leadership, People First and other similar organizations.

In addition to denying disabled people who have a legal guardian a voice on issues that directly affect them, these so-called advocates also misrepresent job opportunities and quality of life experiences that are available for people with significant disabilities. Lemus and others believe that if only people were given the opportunity and educated that they would be able to be fully functioning without needed supports in the community. This is magical thinking and is not based in reality .

In fact Lemus, Bickley and other so-called advocate/activists often miss represent the law and the number of people affected by it. They practice censorship and other violations of the First Amendment by denying people directly affected by these laws to have their voices heard.

The real stakeholders have not been heard nor have their concerns and choices even been considered. When others who don’t even know them make their decisions which go directly against these peoples personal choices while at he same time denying those affected to be heard – Isn’t that Exploitation?

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.   We can’t make these decisions based on IF because we have already witness ed how little supports are funded. Do you really want to have your life choices decided for you by people who believe in magical thinking ? I don’t and I don’t want my sons or others I know lives destroyed because of the misguided activists/advocates

Is it about Civil Rights – subminimum wage

As the issues of eliminating special certificates for subminimum wage for those with disabilities heats up more and more  this legislative session we need to have an understanding and clarification of what civil rights and civil liberties are.

Below ( at the bottom of this post) are some quotes from the findlaw website which may help a little bit in understanding what we’re talking about with regards to civil rights and civil liberties. Libel and defamation are not protected under civil rights and the continued practice of these violations by the Arc of King County’s “advocacy expert”, Shaun Bickley, needs to be addressed.  The Arc of King County is aware of some of these abuses but their statement has generally been that Shaun is not speaking in the capacity of an Arc representative so they have no comment.

Shaun Bickley is an autistic activist who led the legislation in Seattle regarding elimination of special certificates.  It was during this time that I came into contact with him regarding some concerns with information being shared by the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities regarding “facts” with the numbers of people affected and the choices of those people affected by this change. Bickley’s immediate response was to attack me  many times online via the commission Facebook page and then he violated the First Amendment by censorship and then blocking me from having any interaction with the official Seattle City Commission Facebook page (he was the admin of the page).

Many issues have transpired since the time the law passed in Seattle without listening to the overwhelming number of people who sent letters in to the Office of Labor Standards ( Public Comments to OLS regarding special certificates ).   Bickley continued to oppress information shared by those who had concerns. There were multiple complaints to various Seattle City Council members, the director of the Office of Civil Rights and the Mayor with regards to Bickley’s abuse and oppressive censorship to anyone who had concerns about this issue or seemed to question anything on Bickley’s agenda.

It appeared to many of us that these complaints and violations were not heard.  But in August 2018 Mayor Durkan we did remove Bickley from the mayor’s appointed seat on the commission .  This appointment had expired in April 2018 but Bickley was continuing to serve as co-chair of the commission even though the appointment had expired.

Bickley was upset by this action and took to social media to voice his complaints regarding his sense of victimization. The next commission meeting he self nominated himself to be the commission appointed seat on the commission to which he was narrowly voted in and again  appointed to the co-chair position on the commission.  This was all temporary until Bickley could be appointed by the Seattle City Council. The first step in this process was a vote by the Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts Committee.  Shaun Bickley – Appointed as Commissioner to Seattle Disabilities Commission

Typically once a person is appointed by the commission and voted through by the committee the person is then appointed by the full Seattle City Council at the following full Council meeting. There were clearly some problems with this appointment of Bickley to the commission and there were some additional complaints of harassment filed by other commissioners to the Office of Civil  Rights shortly after the September 21, 2018 Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts Committee  meeting. (start  the recording at 13.56  – 26.25 to hear not only my testimony but that of several others who had concerns regarding Bickley’s appointment.)  Bickley’s appointment was never addressed before the full city Council so it appeared this appointment was in limbo

Arc advocacy expert

In November 2018 Bickley published another online essay about his victimization for Autistic Speaking Out Day.  The 4-part essay is published on this site – Radical Neurodivergence Speaking Blog 

The issues that Bickley writes about in his essay are either totally false and fabricated or the truth is twisted so much that there’s really no truth left so it needs to be taken with a grain of salt because the whole essay is really a statement of Bickley’s inability to be in touch with reality or to engage with others in a civil manner

After I read this essay by Bickley and saw another reference to it and other social media I decided to file a police report which recounted the abuse that I have entered from Bickley over the past year or so in addition to violations of the First Amendment which he practiced while co-chair of the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities. I thought that the issues would just die out since I had no interaction with Bickley since the September Seattle Council Committee meeting.

I did attend a few commission meetings during this time and Bickley was absent from these meetings. I and others were informed by a commissioner that Bickley was no longer a member of the commission in December 2018.

This is why I was a little taken aback in January 2019 since I had not had any interaction with Bickley for about four months. My employer informed me that the president of the company had received a letter from Bickley in which he identified himself as co-chair of the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities and as a board member of the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance.  He did not identify himself as the Advocacy specialist from The Arc of King County but he was working in that position and continues to work in a position.  The director of the Seattle Office of Civil Rights and the chair of the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities stated that they had no idea about this letter that Bickley had written to my employer and did not support his opinion.  . I was then informed that Bickley was no longer a member of that commission  that in fact he had commit fraud by writing that he was co-chair of the Commission and implying that the letter was written and agreed-upon by that commission.

I also contacted the Washington Alliance for Low Income Housing since Bickley had signed a letter as a board member of that organization. The executive director of the  Washington Alliance for Low Income Housing wrote Bickley’s letter did not come from that board and they had no knowledge of the issues addressed. According to them Bickley was writing solely for himself and not from the board or their organization

In addition to the letter referenced above the president of my employer also received a letter from Jennifer White CEO of Able Opportunities supporting Bickley in his accusations against me and wondering what my company was going to do about this. Jennifer White did state that she had not met me but that the details of Mr. Bickley’s account were alarming. I do agree that what Bickley wrote were alarming but what Bickley wrote was a figment of his imagination not what actually occurred

A couple weeks after these letters were received by my employer I then received a letter from the Washington State Department of Health, Nursing care quality assurance commission regarding a complaint against me about allegations of unprofessional conduct. The letter stated there would be no investigation due to the fact the allegations were unsubstantiated and there had been no violation of nursing law. I have requested  a copy of the letter that was sent with the complaint but I can only assume it was sent by  Bickley given the timing of it and that in my over 35 years of being a registered nurse I have never had a complaint sent to the nursing board. I am anxious to read the complaint and see if there are any new issues he has accused me of.

Given that I had had no interaction at all with Bickley for months I had no idea why he had suddenly decided to send these libelous comments. I now assume they were his attempts at attacking me so that I would not voice my opinion and concerns regarding HB 1706 this legislative session.

These tactics have not worked if that was the tactics of his libelous letters and attempts and other attempts at defamation they have not worked. I will continue to speak out about injustices that I see and against civil rights violations that are happening right before our eyes.

Interesting addendum to the stalking accusations – I attended a public event sponsored by The Arc of King County on March 8 entitled “Community Strategic Listening Session” Bickley has now accused me of continued stalking him by showing up at his job (something he has accused me of doing many times to demand he be fired – none of which are true)

I had no personal interaction at all with Bickley except for one commission meeting which was recorded and which he is heard yelling at me and the Office of Civil Rights Commission liaison stepped to address Shaun to stand back.   This recording took place in May 2018. Bickley took me to court in June 2018 to claim I had been stalking and harassing him. The judge denied this petition stating that I was practicing free speech and it had nothing to do with stocking or harassment or personal attacks

The only issue I have with Bickley is the continued violations of civil rights and liberties that he practices while in the actions of a true hypocrite,  accuses others of doing the exact same things he is actually doing.

If it was possible to actually have a discussion and voice concerns, work collaboratively to solutions that work the best fort the most people, it would be a truly welcoming experience.

There are reasons that I oppose HB1706 – and my hope is that concerns of mine and the concerns of others will be heard and we will all be at the same table to come up with better and more inclusive legislation that will actually be a better solution for all.  It is possible but we need to listen to each other and hear our concerns.

 

Protecting civil rights is an essential part of the democratic values of the United States. Everyone realizes that interfering with another’s civil rights is a violation that creates an action for injury, but before you can protect your civil rights, you must recognize and know what they are. However, articulating an exact definition of civil rights can be difficult to pinpoint because it is a very broad set of laws. Civil rights are an expansive and significant set of rights that are designed to protect individuals from unfair treatment; they are the rights of individuals to receive equal treatment (and to be free from unfair treatment or discrimination) in a number of settings — including education, employment, housing, public accommodations, and more — and based on certain legally-protected characteristics.

Civil Liberties

Civil liberties concern basic rights and freedoms that are guaranteed — either explicitly identified in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, or interpreted or inferred through the years by legislatures or the courts.

Civil liberties include:

  • The right to free speech
  • The right to privacy
  • The right to remain silent in a police interrogation
  • The right to be free from unreasonable searches of your home
  • The right to a fair court trial
  • The right to marry
  • The right to vote

Interesting comments from The Arc of King County regarding their advocacy specialist

@arcofkingcounty reply

advocacy supports and the arc

Clarification regarding wages

As EHB 1706 goes through the legislative process, we are discovering more and more the various data that is used and how pieces are missing, assumptions are made and reported as facts, and other issues misinterpreted.

 Data The Arc of King County uses is from a taken from a different date cycle than what is reported through the DDA Caseload and Cost Report.  ( which we used to obtain our information).  It is also unclear if The Arc of King County has read or addressed the two recent reports from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC). The Review and Analysis of Employment and Community Inclusion Measurement  provides some excellent analysis of the tools used in addition to what needs to be measured and the report below provides information on the people and their jobs.

Legislative Auditor Report on DDA Employment

Depending on if one removes the number of DDA clients using the Community Inclusion services ( 1513 on July 2018) from their data, they could report that that 60% or 75% of those in DDA employment services were “making minimum wage or better”  The BIG problem with this information is that The Arc of King County does not use any data that addresses the wage people are making – this information is totally made up.

DDA does address this in their report and that information is provided here.

DDA caseload and cost report

Representative Noel Frame, prime sponsor of HB  1706 who credits autistic activist Shaun Bickley with introducing her to this issue is unaware of this data from DDA also.  Rep. Frame reports that in 2018 there were only 350 Special Certificates granted by L&I, 60-80 of which are not used any longer due to Entrust in Yakima closing their pre-vocational program.  Rep. Frame could be correct in that number of certificates but that means that all those DDA clients working for less than minimum wage or no wage they may be victims of wage theft.  This opens up a whole new hornets nest that is caused by activists who may only know or understand part of the whole.

There needs to be open discussions and dialogue with hard questions asked and answered before moving forward on this misguided legislation

“Facts” from The Arc of King County

The Arc of King County published Some facts about the subminimum wage bill on their advocacy blog today  – we say – check their “facts”

The Developmental Disabilities Case load and Cost report has data that is very different than what the Arc of King County reports – take for instance the number of people in supported integrated employment who work and make minimum wage.

DDA reports  8102 people are in the supported integrated employment services program, 3678 (45%) make at least minimum wage, 2294 (28%) make less than minimum wage and 2130 (27%) do not make a wage.

The Arc of King County reports – “Most people served by individual supported employment (the other 92 percent getting DDA employment services) already make minimum wage or better.”

DDA reports that 45% of those in supported integrated employment make minimum wage or better.

The Arc of King County reports “Most people served by individual supported employment (the other 92 percent getting DDA employment services) already make minimum wage or better.”

A national trend?  We don’t think so.  Of great importance is that there has not been evaluations done for quality of life, meaningful life or job satisfaction/employment rates since some of these states have made changes.  As policy makers, one would think that evaluations are important before making decisions.

The Arc of King County reports Vermont closed its sheltered workshops in the 1990s and abolished subminimum wage certificates for people with disabilities. New Hampshire, Maryland and Alaska all passed legislation to abolish subminimum wages for people with disabilities

Review Magical Thinking for some research and insights from New Hampshire and Maine on the issues of eliminating subminimum wage.

From Alaska :  While the Employment First movement has picked up in recent years, it does pose new challenges in how providers should tailor job-training services for each person.

One approach has been to give workers a job coach, who goes to work with them during their first month on the job and helps them learn the ropes.
(from 2018 – no evaluation of the outcome of their legislation yet )

These are just a few of the facts that have been checked – there are more.

Please ask The Arc of King County, Representative Noel Frame, Activist Shaun Bickley or any of those organizations on the list of organizations which support this bill,  about these discrepancies.

Ask them about the numbers of hours that employees work a week, ask them who pays for the job coaches and supports that will be ongoing for many of the employees to keep their jobs.  There are too many unanswered questions or concerns that have not been addressed for this bill to advance without causing more harm than good.