RE: Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities

Resolution: Resolution 2011-2

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.