[Colorado-talk] Denver Business Journal Article on Subminimum Wages

Dan Burke burke.dall at gmail.com
Fri Jun 6 21:16:38 UTC 2014

This is the other end of the spectrum. There did a series of articles
this week on workers with disabilities in the work force.  Again, the
full article is pastd after the link.  I encourage all to comment vn
Face Book via this web site.




More on the cover story: A push to end sub-minimum wage for workers
with disabilities - Denver Business Journal

>From the Denver Business Journal


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Jun 2, 2014, 4:05am MDT UPDATED: Jun 2, 2014, 5:16pm MDT

More on the cover story: A push to end sub-minimum wage for workers
with disabilities
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Rep. Ed Perlmutter supports an end to paying workers with disabilities
less than minimum wage.

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L. Wayne Hicks
Associate Editor- Denver Business Journal
Cultural Attache blog
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Gregg Harper,
a Republican congressman from Mississippi, wants to strike down a
federal provision allowing companies to pay employees with
disabilities less than minimum

"There are hundreds of thousands of individuals that this impacts
across the country," said Harper, whose son has Fragile X syndrome, an
intellectual disability.
"I really believe it's time to come to an end."

Harper last year sponsored the Fair Wages for Workers with
Disabilities Act, but the proposal hasn't moved from the House
Education and Workforce Committee
since it was introduced. Read the text of the bill

See Also
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* DBJ cover story: Workers with disabilities are breaking barriers
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Two members of Colorado's congressional delegation,
Ed Perlmutter
Diana DeGette,
signed on as co-sponsors of the Fair Wages for Workers with
Disabilities Act. Perlmutter's office said the congressman believes
"all workers should receive
a fair, livable wage." DeGette's office said she has heard from
members of the disability community that the notion of paying
sub-minimum wage is "badly

Paying a sub-minimum wage to someone with a disability dates to 1938,
and requires a special certificate called a 14(c) from the U.S.
Department of Labor.
Twenty-nine companies in Colorado have those certificates, including
Goodwill Industries of Denver, Shalom Denver and Easter Seals of

The White House has already erased the practice of paying sub-minimum
wage in one instance -- federal contractors must pay employees at least
$10.10 an
hour, including workers with disabilities -- but sub-minimum wage
remains in the private sector.

The Association of People Supporting EmploymentFirst, a Rockville,
Maryland, organization that's pushing for every disabled person to be
included in the
workforce, has called for completely phasing out sub-minimum wages by
the end of this year.

The Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, which works with
thousands of individuals with disabilities each year to move them into
the workforce,
in October stopped considering someone getting a job that paid
sub-minimum wage as a "successful" employment outcome.

"Some people would say, 'Isn't any work good work?'" said
Joelle Brouner,
director of the division. "I would say an equal opportunity to share
your skill and have it valued is the best possible outcome. If it's
really about someone's
talent and someone's labor being valued, I don't understand why they
wouldn't be paid at a rate competitive to their peers."

Vanessa Clark,
senior director of marketing at Goodwill Industries of Denver, said
the nonprofit spends $200,000 a year to subsidizes a prevocational
program that pays
sub-minimum wage.

"We are providing an environment where people with multiple and severe
disabilities have a safe environment to come each day and learn life
skills and
learn job skills with the goal of moving into full employment," she said.

Clark said 15 people were able to move from the prevocational program
last year into a more traditional job setting.

A sub-minimum wage works like this: if a job pays $10 an hour, but a
person can't work at the optimum productivity level required, their
pay would reflect
that. Someone whose productivity is just 60 percent, for instance,
would be paid $6 an hour.

Lynn Robinson,
president and CEO of Easter Seals Colorado, said a person's
productivity is measured every six months, with raises given based on
their meeting a higher

"We try to get them always going up," she said.

Robinson said it's important to understand that a sub-minimum wage
isn't all someone with a disability lives on. Federal and state
programs pay for such
services as transportation, personal care and housing.

Shalom Denver, like Goodwill and Easter Seals, offers prevocational
services to guide someone with disabilities into the workforce.

"In all honesty, we have folks in here with multiple challenges --
physical, developmental and mental challenges -- that make it pretty
challenging for them
to get a job at minimum wage," said
Arnie Kover,
director of disability and employment services at Shalom Denver. "But
they and we keep working at it. They keep working at it, we keep
working at it, and
we keep supporting them."

The call to end payment of a sub-minimum wage parallels a movement to
shut down sheltered workshops, which has drawn the attention of the
federal government.
The Justice Department in April reached a settlement against the state
of Rhode Island over funding for sheltered workshops. The state will
redirect those
funds to help people with disabilities find jobs in a segregated
setting, such as you'd find in a typical office.

But, cautioned
Marcia Tewell,
director of the Colorado Developmental Disabilities Council, it's not
enough to just shut down a sheltered workshop.

"When you close those down, you have to have something for people to
do besides go home and watch TV," she said.

Colorado's Medicaid program put an end to paying for jobs done at
sheltered workshops -- also called non-integrated work services -- in
July 2012.

Shalom Denver closed its sheltered workshop then.

"It wasn't that one day we had a sheltered workshop and we just
changed the name of it," Kover said. "We entirely changed the program,
adding classes and
other job exploration programs. ... The purpose of the workshop has
always been to prepare people for employment. They get work
experience, build their productivity,
move on to jobs. Not everybody's been able to do that."

Robert Lawhead,
CEO of Boulder-based Community Link, said his organization started as
a sheltered workshop in the 1950s and remained in that business until
1996. Community
Link now teaches job-development skills to people with disabilities.

"People prefer being out in the community and didn't want to be
segregated anymore," he said. He said organizations that continue to
use sheltered workshops
are "certainly well-meaning."

Laura Owens,
executive director of the Association of People Supporting
EmploymentFirst, said an integrated workforce is a better atmosphere
for people with a disability.

"If I'm working at Walgreens, I'm working with non-disabled peers and
see them and go to lunch with them and to Christmas parties," she
said. "I think
that's another piece of employment. It's where you meet people, it's
where you make friends. If your circle of support is just others with
that's not a strong circle."

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L. Wayne Hicks is associate editor of the Denver Business Journal,
writes the "Cultural Attache" blog, and compiles the daily "Morning
Edition" email.
Phone: 303-803-9221.
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Dan Burke
My Cell:  406.546.8546
Twitter:  @DallDonal

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