From the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) Weekly Advocacy Monitor, Volume 9, Issue 26, July 20, 2011
There has recently been a lot of discussion surrounding Section 511 in the draft language of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) regarding subminimum wage for people with disabilities. The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) urges individuals and organizations to read the language first-hand to dispel any myths or hyperbole created by some of the emotionally charged reactions to the draft language and we have attached it for your review (click here to open the Word document). It is important that the disability community responsibly addresses this issue, as it affects the lives of millions of Americans.
To be clear, NCIL does not support the employment of people with disabilities below minimum wage, and strongly believes that allowing the employment of people with disabilities at subminimum wages is wrong, and should be illegal. To our disappointment, at this time it will not be possible to get enough support in Congress or for that matter among disability groups to completely overturn this practice, but we believe that we should make progress and work to keep people with disabilities out of sheltered employment while the opportunity exists. We find the suggestions by some groups that this legislation is ill-intended or a step backwards to be incredible and unfounded.
There are some groups suggesting that Section 511 be removed entirely from this bill; NCIL respectfully disagrees. Although we feel subminimum wage should be ultimately abolished, accepting the status quo while pursuing an ideal is not the answer. We must act while we can to make progress. We believe that we may not see another opportunity to create change for a decade or more.
After reading the draft of the bill, we believe it is evident that the language makes it harder for people with disabilities to be employed at subminimum wage. This legislation, for the first time ever, does in fact create more obstacles that will help prevent people from being shuffled into sheltered employment in the following ways:
The draft of WIA that is under consideration in the Senate contains many provisions that clearly improve some of the concerns regarding informed consumer choice. Upon actually reading this bipartisan piece of legislation it is obvious that it was not written for the purpose of continuing discrimination.
Threatening the passage of this bill is not in the best interest of the disability community, and we must all take a step back and figure out ways to reach a reasonable consensus. NCIL hopes that after reading the legislation that you come to the same conclusion we did and that you stand with Senator Harkin to reduce the number of people with disabilities entering sheltered employment.