Re: The Application of the Randolph-Sheppard Act to Military Dining Contracts (Luke air Force Base)

WHEREAS, the Randolph-Sheppard Act grants a priority to blind person to operate vending facilities on federal properties for the purposes of expanding economic opportunities for the blind; and,

WHEREAS, in 1974 Congress expanded the priority for blind persons to operate vending facilities on federal property under the Randolph-Sheppard Act by specifying that the priority applies to contracts for cafeterias, subsequently interpreted to include military dining halls; and,

WHEREAS, in March of 2018, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos issued a letter to then Congressman Pete Sessions clarifying that all contracts pertaining to the operation of a cafeteria, including dining facility attendant contracts, are covered by the priority; and,

WHEREAS, multiple arbitration panels and federal courts have confirmed the applicability of eh priority to these contracts; and,

WHEREAS, the Luke Air Force Base announced plans to award to AbilityOne a contract that it characterized as a dining facility attendant contract which was clearly subject to the Randolph-Sheppard priority; and,

WHEREAS, the Arizona Business Enterprise Program was not given an opportunity to bid on this food service; and,

WHEREAS, once the contract is awarded to AbilityOne, it is lost forever to Randolph-Sheppard; and,

WHEREAS, the blind vendors of Arizona and other advocates urged eh Arizona Department of Economic Services to file for arbitration pursuant to 34 C.F.R. 395.37 to force Luke Air Force Base to afford the Arizona business Enterprises Program to compete for the contract; and,

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona in Convention assembled this 31st day of August, 2019, in the City of Phoenix, Arizona, that this organization urge the Arizona Department of Economic Services to allow the Arizona Rehabilitation Services to file a request with the U.S. Secretary of Education immediately to convene an arbitration panel to resolve this dispute.

Re: Funding of Independent Living Services For Arizona’s Senior Blind

WHEREAS, the population of blind persons eligible for independent living services is growing at an alarming rate, due in large part to the aging of “baby-boomers”; and

WHEREAS, the fiscal resources available to serve this growing population is woefully inadequate to meet the needs; and

WHEREAS the current funding mechanism for Independent Living Blind Services (ILB) has made it almost impossible to hire and retain qualified employees that can assist seniors in their need to learn alternative techniques of blindness; and

WHEREAS, newly blind persons need independent living services to assist them in staying in their own homes which can be achieved with appropriate blindness training; and

WHEREAS, the provision of independent living services, including but not limited to travel training, and adaptive technology training can provide continued activity and communication for those who often become ostracized in their homes; and

WHEREAS, the state legislature and Governor appropriated funding in 2007 to the Rehabilitation Services Administration to enable the agency to serve additional newly blind persons; however, that level of funding has not been consistently appropriated since, leaving seniors undergoing vision loss without adequate resources; and

WHEREAS, The Independent Living for the Blind (ILB) program within the Rehabilitation Services Administration has a growing wait list of persons seeking services; NOW; THEREFORE,

BE IT RESOLVED, by the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona, in this convention assembled, this 31st day of August, 2019, in the City of Phoenix, Arizona, that our Governor and the State Legislature seek input from the members of this organization in order to fully understand the benefits and best practices for seniors undergoing vision loss. And

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization vigorously urge the Governor and the Arizona State Legislature to appropriate a permanent fixed amount of $500,000 annually for the Independent Living Program (ILB). This amount to be in addition to the Older Individuals Who are Blind OIB funding currently received annually; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the urgency of this resolution be emphatically imparted to the office of the Governor, the entire state legislature and to other interested organizations. The time for passive resignation to a growing neglected population has past and this organization is committed to ensuring that action is taken.

RE: Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities

WHEREAS, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was passed in 1938 to provide workforce protections to American employees by establishing a federal minimum wage prohibiting employers from exploiting workers through the payment of wages below this specified minimum; and

WHEREAS, Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act permits the secretary of labor to grant special wage certificates allowing specified employers to pay workers with disabilities at rates that are lower than the federal minimum wage, eliminating those workforce protections granted to every other American citizen; and

WHEREAS, the practice of paying workers with disabilities subminimum wages stems from the public misperception that people with disabilities cannot be productive employees; moreover, this exploitive standard for employment is patronizingly considered a compassionate opportunity for people with disabilities to receive the “tangible and intangible benefits of work”; and

WHEREAS, when provided effective rehabilitation services, training, and tools, employees with disabilities can be as productive as non-disabled workers–even those considered most severely disabled have obtained jobs paying minimum wage or higher; and

WHEREAS, though some employers possessing special wage certificates claim to provide rehabilitation and training to their disabled workers to prepare them for competitive employment, the fact that such employers can pay their workers less than the federal minimum wage gives them an incentive to exploit the cheap labor provided by disabled workers rather than to prepare those workers for integrated employment in the mainstream economy; and

WHEREAS, National Industries for the Blind (NIB) agencies for years exploited blind employees by paying them subminimum wages, claiming they could not otherwise maintain profitability, but today, because of the advocacy of the National Federation of the Blind, NIB states that “All NIB-associated agencies are committed to the NIB board policy of paying employees whose only disability is blindness at or above the federal minimum wage or their state minimum wage, whichever is higher”; and

WHEREAS, in addition to NIB, other employers holding special wage certificates recognize that the payment of sub-minimum wages is in fact exploitation and are now paying the federal minimum wage or higher to employees with disabilities, without reducing their workforces, while still maintaining their profitability; and

WHEREAS, the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (WHD) is charged with the responsibility for oversight of regulations pursuant to Section 14(c), but the results from thorough investigations conducted by the U.S. Government Accountability Office—“Stronger Federal Efforts Needed for Providing Employment Opportunities and Enforcing Labor Standards in Sheltered Workshops, Report to the Congress, Comptroller General of the United States” (HRD-81-99) and “Report to Congressional Requesters, Special Minimum Wage Program: Centers Offer Employment and Support Services to Workers With Disabilities, But Labor Should Improve Oversight” (GAO-01-886)—demonstrate that WHD is incapable of enforcing compliance with the sub-minimum wage provision; and

WHEREAS, the only method of ensuring that this regulation is not abused to the detriment of workers with disabilities is to repeal Section 14(c) of the FLSA and to revoke every special wage certificate granted under that provision: NOW, THEREFORE,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona in convention assembled this 5th day of September, 2011, in the city of Tempe, Arizona, that this organization call upon the Arizona congressional delegation to Introduce and support the Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act of 2011, which would provide an incentive for employers to adopt a business model that pays employees with disabilities the federal minimum wage or higher by phasing out Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act and by revoking the certificates issued under that provision so that workers with disabilities are guaranteed the same workforce protections afforded non-disabled employees.