[nfbmi-talk] Fw: this is nfb policy!
drob1946 at gmail.com
Mon Nov 9 14:57:09 UTC 2015
----- Original Message -----
From: joe harcz Comcast
To: Larry Posont NFBMI Pres.
Cc: Michael Powell ; Fred Wurtzel ; J.J. Meddaugh NFB MI ; mary wurtzel ; Derek Moore ; Lydia Anne Schuck NFB MI
Sent: Monday, November 09, 2015 7:50 AM
Subject: this is nfb policy!
All one of the many items that the protestors, including me were attempting to distribute at the September 17 fiasco was the Ability One reform document referenced in this NFB letter to the United States Department of Labor.
Our constitution requires that our affiliate abides by NFB policies and that it doesn't dodge them as the body did yesterday.
Regardless the issues should be understood at very least by our board.
And members should know these issues on our list serve as well as other media as well.
You are welcome to read and understand these issues and you are welcome for my gift to you in providing this information.
SENT VIA EMAIL
October 2, 2015
Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with
US Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue, NW, Suite S-1303
Washington, DC 20210
Dear Committee Members:
The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) was pleased to read the recommendations in the
interim report about Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the AbilityOne® Program.
The report very clearly states that the practice of paying workers with disabilities subminimum
wages is outdated and does not lead to increasing competitive integrated employment for
individuals with disabilities. We wanted to take this opportunity to applaud the committee for
including these chapters in the interim report and voice our support for these chapters to remain in
the final report.
The National Federation of the Blind knows that with the proper training, support, and
expectations, any person with a disability can obtain competitive integrated employment. Although
attitudes are impossible to legislate, any recommendation that the committee can make that
reinforces the importance of high expectations for people with disabilities in the employment
sphere should and must be made. It is low expectations that keep workers with disabilities in low-
level positions. Recommending that the practice of paying people with disabilities subminimum
wages be eliminated is a logical first step.
The first stated goal of the WIOA Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated
Employment for Individuals with Disabilities is to build on the development and implementation of
the innovative strategies that are already being identified by the US Department of Labor’s office
of Disability Employment Policy. These strategies have been proven to be effective in creating
competitive integrated employment opportunities for individuals with intellectual or developmental
disabilities and other individuals with significant disabilities. Another goal of the committee is to
advise the Secretary of Labor about ways to improve oversight of the Section 14(c) certificate
program. Oversight of the Section 14(c) program is not the solution to providing more competitive
integrated employment, because Section 14(c) is an assertion that it is the disability that curtails
employment opportunities. Research demonstrates it is the lack of effective training that is the true
barrier to competitive integrated employment for workers with disabilities. A greater emphasis
should be placed on requiring those entities that profess to provide employment opportunities for
individuals with significant disabilities to implement the innovative training and employment
strategies that are beginning to emerge.
Consequently, it makes perfect sense that the committee would recommend changes to the
AbilityOne Program, because the intended purpose of this program is to provide employment
opportunities for people with disabilities. The National Industries for the Blind (NIB), the central
nonprofit agency responsible for the employment of the blind under the AbilityOne Program, is
effectively working to phase out the use of special wage certificates by their associated non-
profits, and they should be encouraged to continue to move in this direction. However,
SourceAmerica®, the central nonprofit agency responsible for the employment of individuals that
are severely disabled under the AbilityOne Program, has not demonstrated the same commitment
to modernizing their associated nonprofits. This is despite the SourceAmerica Pathways Program,
which is a demonstration project with proven success in creating competitive integrated
employment opportunities for people with significant disabilities. We support the findings in
Chapters Six and Seven of the report about the Section 14(c) Program and the AbilityOne
Chapter Six: Section 14(c) Program
The National Federation of the Blind supports the responsible phase out of Section 14(c) of the
Fair Labor Standards Act and specifically would like to see a recommendation from the advisory
committee encouraging Congress to pass legislation that will achieve this goal. One such piece of
legislation is the Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment (TIME) Act. The TIME
Act will do three things. First, upon passage, it will legislate that the Department of Labor
immediately stop issuing new 14(c) certificates. Second, it will responsibly phase out the use of
Section 14(c) over a three year period. Third, it will repeal Section 14(c) after three years.
Many of the current recommendations offered in the interim report already reflect the outcomes
that would result from passage of the TIME Act. For example, Recommendation 19(c) states that
the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor should, “cease accepting new employer
applications to the certificate program one year after the passage of the phase-out legislation.”
The first paragraph of Section 3 of the TIME Act will accomplish this goal in a slightly more
ambitious time frame. It states: “Effective on the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of
Labor shall discontinue issuing special wage certificates under section 14(c) of the Fair Labor
Standards Act of 1938 to any new entities not currently holding a certificate.”
Additionally, the TIME Act outlines a phase-out of special wage certificates, which reflects
Recommendation 9. While Recommendation 9 states: “The Secretary of Labor, in consultation
with the RSA and the CMS should propose a time frame for phasing out the Section 14(c)
certificate program,” the TIME Act suggests a specific timeline allowing three years for the phase
out of Section 14(c). Workers with disabilities who are trapped in subminimum wage environments
do not have time to wait. There are many tools, such as the Vermont Conversion Institute, that
can assist 14(c)-certificate-holding entities in transitioning their business model to one that does
not rely upon paying their workers with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage. As
presenters at the various committee meetings have attested, such as SRVS, transition is truly
possible and in a short time. Transition does not mean shutting the doors to an entire service
provider. It means integrating new innovative strategies that help people with disabilities reach
their full vocational potential in integrated and competitive jobs. For SRVS, this meant closing the
workshop aspect of their operation down, while keeping and enhancing programs that did not
utilize the 14(c) certificate. As SRVS explained, change was difficult, and they were resistant to
make the change at first. But once they started down the path of phasing out the use of their
subminimum wage certificate, they found that the results were great. Responsibly phasing out
Section 14(c) will yield similar results for other 14(c)-certificate-holding entities. Without the
incentive to change, entities that do hold 14(c) certificates will continue in a business-as-usual
fashion—sheltering people with disabilities from integrated competitive jobs.
While the transition period is going on for all Section-14(c)-certificate-holding entities, it is
imperative that the Departments of Labor and Education work concurrently to develop regulations
that will ensure that Section 511 of WIOA is enforced. Recommendation 15 reflects this sentiment:
“DOL and ED should make enforcement of the law and spirit of Section 511 of the Rehabilitation
Act, as amended by WIOA, a priority. The Departments should work with agency field offices and
state advocates, including Protection and Advocacy organizations, to identify enforcement actions
that will help end the practice of paying people subminimum wages and expand CIE with full
wages and benefits.”
Section 511 will help reduce the number of youth tracked into subminimum wage environments.
But, without regulations that will enforce Section 511, Section-14(c)-certificate-holding entities will
take a business-as-usual approach. For example, if there was no threat of a fine for stealing candy
bars, everyone would steal candy bars. The same logic applies to Section-14(c)-certificate-holding
entities: if there is a law that says individuals with disabilities aged 24 and younger cannot be
compensated at subminimum wages without first going through certain steps, but there is no
penalty for hiring young people with disabilities at subminimum wages, countless entities are
going to continue to do so. Recommendation 15 is right on target.
Chapter Seven: AbilityOne® Program
Throughout the chapter on AbilityOne, the topic of subminimum wages arose again. Specifically,
recommendation 3 states: “The President should issue an Executive Order outlining a plan to
phase-out expeditiously the use of FLSA Section 14(c) certificates within the AbilityOne Program.
As part of this Executive Order all AbilityOne NPAs, who currently employ workers at subminimum
wage on AbilityOne contracts, must be required to develop a plan that addresses the expectation
to retain those workers at no less hours than they are currently working and to be paid at least
federal minimum wage.” This is a superb recommendation because eliminating the option to pay
AbilityOne workers subminimum wages will ensure that they are in competitive employment.
Additionally, this recommendation reflects the sentiment of President Obama’s 2014 Executive
Order which called for all federal contract workers in the service sector, including workers with
disabilities, be paid at least $10.10 per hour.
Last month, the National Federation of the Blind, along with six other disability advocacy
organizations, jointly issued a press release outlining seven reform principles for the AbilityOne
Program. In summary, the seven reform principles are: a commitment to integrated employment,
the use of Supported Employment and Customized Employment methods, the elimination of
conflicts of interest in contract implementation, the payment of prevailing wages, financial and
operational transparency, to connect employees with disabilities to mainstream employers, and to
award contracts to disability-owned businesses. Many of the recommendations made by the
Committee reflect our reform principles. For example, Recommendation 3 reflects reform principle
four regarding the payment of prevailing wages. The only reform principle that was not reflected in
the Committee’s recommendations was number seven. We suggest that the AbilityOne Program
award contracts to disability-owned businesses.
Our first reform principle, as well as the committee’s first recommendation, stresses the
importance of integrated employment. We applaud the committee for stressing the importance of
the Olmstead decision and urging Congress to “amend the JWOD Act to ensure all AbilityOne
Program contract work is accomplished in fully integrated work settings where individuals with
disabilities work, on an individualized basis, alongside of their non-disabled peers, consistent with
the goals of the ADA and Olmstead.” When workers with disabilities are in integrated settings,
they are more likely to rise to their full potential. Their coworkers act as positive role models and
will set high expectations for workers with disabilities. By requiring 75% of the labor hours
necessary to complete AbilityOne contracts are done by people who are blind or have other
significant disabilities, the AbilityOne Program almost automatically ensures that workers under
these contracts will be in segregated settings. In fact, the interim report cites that: “most AbilityOne
contracts for products, which employ 28 percent of all individuals working on AbilityOne contracts,
continue to be completed in sheltered workshop settings.” In addition, while many of the service
contracts are completed outside of sheltered workshops, oftentimes the workers on these
contracts are clustered together in groups called enclaves. This may be a small step above
working in the physical sheltered workshops, but it is a far cry from integrated employment. More
often than not, the individuals in the enclaves have very little contact with the day-to-day workers
at the enclave sites. Reforming the AbilityOne Program to ensure the employment opportunities
for AbilityOne workers are integrated is essential.
Recommendation 1(e)(2) states: “Congress should amend the JWOD Act to establish new criteria
for who is eligible to work on AbilityOne contracts, with changes made to ensure that NPAs are
not given discretion to determine who is and is not qualified to work on AbilityOne contracts.” The
National Federation of the Blind also agrees with this recommendation. It reflects our third
proposed reform principle which calls for the elimination of conflicts of interest within the
AbilityOne Program. When qualified nonprofit agencies determine who is eligible to work under
AbilityOne contracts, they are declaring that these individuals have a disability that “prevents the
individual from currently engaging in normal competitive employment.” This criterion reflects the
low expectations recruiters of the AbilityOne Program are forced to have towards workers with
disabilities. If an AbilityOne recruiter declares that an individual is incapable of “normal competitive
employment” from day one, then it seems very unlikely that the recruiters will ever help those
individuals who are labeled as incapable find competitive integrated employment. The National
Federation of the Blind supports recommendation 1(e)(i): the practice of labeling individuals with
disabilities incapable of competitive work before they are permitted participation in the AbilityOne
Program should be eliminated.
The National Federation of the Blind has some suggestions regarding recommendation 2, which is
rather vague in the interim report but promises to be more specific in the final report, regarding the
make-up, structure and role of the AbilityOne Commission. Currently, the make-up of the
Commission reflects the attitude that the AbilityOne program is a procurement program rather
than an employment program for people with disabilities. As a result, eleven of the fifteen
positions are granted to government agencies which include US Departments of Agriculture, Air
Force, Army, Commerce, Defense, Education, Justice, Labor, Navy, and Veterans Affairs, as well
as the General Services Administration. The other four positions are granted to two individuals
who are conversant with the problems incident to the employment of the blind or severely disabled
and two who represent blind or severely disabled individuals employed in qualified nonprofit
agencies. To ensure that the AbilityOne Program is promoting competitive integrated employment,
the make-up of the committee should be filled with experts on employing workers with disabilities.
We would recommend that at least 51 percent of the Commission be made up of people with
disabilities, and that agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for
Medicare & Medicaid Services be represented on the Commission.
Instead of procuring contracts, the main role of the Commission should be to foster employment
opportunities for people with disabilities in competitive and integrated settings. One way to
accomplish this goal would be to support businesses that are owned and operated by people with
disabilities. Reform principle number seven states: “Prioritizing awarding of contracts available
through the procurement process to disability-owned businesses, including self-employed
individuals with disabilities: rather than all contracts going to the nonprofit organizations currently
involved in the program, individuals with disabilities should be encouraged to compete for service
contracts.” Not only will implementing this suggestion ensure that people with disabilities
participating in the AbilityOne Program will be in competitive, integrated employment, but people
with disabilities who are already employed will be supported and their businesses will be able to
Thank you to the Committee for working hard to ensure that more individuals with disabilities are
able to obtain competitive integrated employment. Responsibly phasing out Section 14(c) of the
Fair Labor Standards Act is an imperative step to achieving competitive employment for workers
with disabilities. Also, reforming the AbilityOne Program is overdue. When reformed, this program
holds the promise to ensure that more workers with disabilities are employed in competitive and
integrated settings. The National Federation of the Blind looks forward to working with you as your
work continues. We hope that the final report will look similar to the interim report. Should you
have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.
John G. Pare, Jr. SignatureJohn G. Paré, Jr.
Executive Director of Advocacy and Policy
National Federation of the Blind
TASH LogoNational Federation of the Blind logo Leading Organizations of Americans with Disabilities Call for Reform of AbilityOne
Organizations Set Forth Seven Reform Principles
Seven leading organizations comprised of Americans with disabilities announced today that they
are calling for reform of the AbilityOne Program and set forth seven principles for overhaul of the
program, which affects hundreds of thousands of American workers with disabilities. The
announcement was made by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), TASH, the National
Council for Independent Living (NCIL), the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), the
Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE), the Autistic Self Advocacy Network
(ASAN), and the United Spinal Association. The seven principles for reform put forward by the
organizations are as follows:
1. Commitment to the expressed integration mandate set forth by the Supreme Court of the
United States in the case of Olmstead v. L.C.: Segregation of people with disabilities in work
sites, such as sheltered workshops and enclaves, is inconsistent with Title II of the Americans
with Disabilities Act. People with disabilities must be supported to lead fully integrated lives in
their communities, including throughout their workday.
2. Implementation and development of best practices for employment of people with significant
disabilities: People employed by contracts negotiated through the AbilityOne procurement
process must have their employment goals supported by providers implementing recognized
best practices, such as Supported Employment and Customized Employment, that result in
good jobs in the community.
3. Elimination of conflicts of interest that contribute to exploitation, fraud, and abuse: Conflicts of
interest in AbilityOne contract implementation are rampant, and must be identified and
prohibited. These include determination of employee eligibility by community rehabilitation
programs (CRPs) implementing contracts, as well as the use of contract funds for lobbying and
4. Payment of prevailing wages and the elimination of subminimum-wage payments: Payment of
subminimum wages to people with disabilities is intolerable in the United States. People with
disabilities should be paid the prevailing wage for the task they are performing.
5. Ensuring financial and operational transparency and accountability: AbilityOne contract use of
funds must be transparent and readily available (online) to the public at every level, including
the purpose and amount of funds used by the Central Nonprofit Agencies, executive
compensation packages of nonprofits involved in the program, worker wage ranges, and
purposes of funds used.
6. Relationship with employer: The ultimate objective of a federally-sanctioned special
procurement program should be to connect employees with mainstream employers, as
opposed to having people with disabilities working for nonprofit entities under specialized, set-
7. Prioritizing awarding of contracts available through the procurement process to disability-
owned businesses, including self-employed individuals with disabilities: Rather than all
contracts going to the non-profit organizations currently involved in the program, individuals
with disabilities should be encouraged to compete for service contracts.
The AbilityOne Program must be brought up to contemporary standards of practice for supporting
people with disabilities to access competitive integrated employment. When these reforms are
adopted, an inspector general should be appointed to provide rigorous oversight to ensure that the
days of exploitation and fraud are brought to an end.
More information about the NFBMI-Talk