[nfbmi-talk] Original LSJ Article

J.J. Meddaugh jj at bestmidi.com
Thu Feb 4 20:17:08 UTC 2010

This article was hard to find, but here is the Lansing State Journal article on the rally. Christine isn't mentioned here, though.

January 30, 2010
Blind workers protest dismissals
Demonstrators say state commission is ignoring their concerns, complaints
Barbara Wieland
bwieland at lsj.com
About 30 people who are blind and their supporters picketed the Michigan Commission
for the Blind on Friday, claiming the organization is unfairly dismissing workers
who are blind from state-run programs.
The picketers said there are 15 grievances against the commission - many filed by
business owners who are blind and operate cafeterias in government office buildings.
Another five complaints against the Michigan Commission for the Blind are awaiting
federal arbitration, protest organizers said.
Protesters said many Michigan people who are blind have grown increasingly unhappy
over the past four years with the way commission director Patrick Cannon has administered
programs intended to help.
"They've turned a deaf ear to us," said David Robinson, who helped supervise the
cafeteria program until he was fired last month - a move he is contesting.
"The blind of Michigan believe that it is necessary for the government to investigate
the Commission for the Blind. We need new leadership," he said.
The Michigan Commission for the Blind is part of the state's Department of Energy,
Labor and Economic Growth. Mario Morrow, spokesman for DELEG, said he couldn't comment
on personnel matters.
"The commission and all state agencies deal with these matters professionally," Morrow
said. "The picketers have a right to voice their opinion ... and we will follow the
process of disciplinary investigations and hearings."
Many of the disputes center over a state-administered federal program that gives
people who are blind opportunities to run cafeterias in government buildings. The
program is an attempt to combat the high unemployment rate that exists among working-age
people who are blind, which the National Federation for the Blind says hovers around
70 percent.
But Larry Posont, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan,
alleged Cannon and his staff are quick to dismiss business operators who are blind
who question the commission.
"(Cannon) has met with me, but he doesn't want to hear what we have to say," he said.
Hazell Brooks, who ran one of the cafeterias in the state secondary complex in Dimondale,
said she filed a complaint when non-blind state workers set up a competing cafeteria
in her building, which she said violated state and federal rules.
A federal administrative law judge sided with Brooks. But Brooks claimed the commission
took away her cafeteria in retribution. Brooks was removed from her store in 2008
and her case is now awaiting federal arbitration.
Additional Facts
I On the web
. Michigan Commission for the Blind: www.michigan.gov/mcb

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