[nfbwatlk] elitists, huh?

Mary ellen gabias at telus.net
Sat Jun 22 23:35:28 UTC 2013

Very well said, Mike!  I've been part of the workshop system as a worker and
as a temporary staff member.  I was a worker at the Toledo Society for the
Blind in the summer of 1972.  The minimum wage at that time was $1.60.  As a
worker, I was paid as little as $5 a day for assembling muffler clamps.
Most of the time I was guaranteed half the minimum wage but "earned" almost
the minimum wage putting muffler clamps in boxes.  The sheltered shop for
which I worked had as chairman of its board the CEO of the company that made
the muffler clamps.  His factory was across the street from the shop; the
workers there were paid union wages, which I can assure you were far more
than the minimum.  No blind worker was ever hired at that factory.  If
anybody complained, the boss pointed out that the jobs the shop workers were
doing could be automated out of existence.  So much for training people for
competitive employment!  By everyone's admission we were doing work that was
normally automated; no jobs doing something similar existed anywhere in
competitive industry.  I've never worked so physically hard in my life!

After I graduated from college, I was employed for six months under a
government sponsored training and job placement program for disadvantaged
workers.  I earned the minimum wage supervising severely developmentally
delayed adults at a different sheltered workshop.  They were given make work
to do; nobody expected any of them to ever be employable.  One young woman
had a form of neural atrophy that meant she couldn't focus on any task for
more than three or four seconds at a time.  If she was walking from one room
to another, a staff member would have to remind her where she was going or
she would stand quietly in the hallway indefinitely.  Another woman had the
lowest IQ ever recorded by the psychologist who tested her.  Sometimes there
wasn't any real work to do, so the people were required to sort nuts and
bolts which the staff took into the next room and mixed together again.  So
much for being productive!One fellow took home his check and came back the
next week saying that he hadn't even received enough money to buy a six pack
to share with his dad.  And those self righteous so-called do-gooders have
the nerve to say that it's the work experience that counts and the pay is
irrelevant to most of the people.  Plantation owners in 1859 said their
slaves appreciated being taken care of by the masters because they were too
childlike to manage on their own.  In my least charitable moments, I wish
all the people defending the sheltered workshop system could spend just one
month being thought about and treated the same way as the workers.  In my
more charitable moments I am ashamed at the very thought of treating any
other human being with such nauseating condescension!

-----Original Message-----
From: nfbwatlk [mailto:nfbwatlk-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Mike
Sent: Saturday, June 22, 2013 7:14 AM
To: 'NFB of Washington Talk Mailing List'
Subject: Re: [nfbwatlk] elitists, huh?

I'ts very convenient for the CEOs of these workshops to trot out the old saw
that they are providing the workers "meaningful work experiences". Talk
about elitism! If such work experiences are so wonderful for the disabled
workers at starvation wages, then perhaps the CEOs would care to work for
the same "wages". After all, it would be the fiscally responsible thing to
do in that it would increase the profits for these nonprofit workshops!

The underlying problem here is that both the parents/relatives/friends of
many of the disabled workers and the workers themselves (mostly with
developmental delays) have been bamboozled by the workshops into believing
that the workers are being given a dignity they've never known. But it's a
false dignity. It separates the workers into "us" and "them" -- the
"normal", "privileged" workers and the disabled workers -- the great
"other". Implicit in this view is that the "normal" deserve a living wage as
a matter of right whereas the "others" are being given wages as a matter of
charity and sufferance rather than a matter of right. So in the end, neither
the workshop personnel or, tragically, those who are responsible for the
well-being of the workers (parents, relatives and, yes, care-givers and the
like) have the expectation that, simply by virtue of being members of the
human race, the disabled workers can and should receive a living wage. Even
more dismally, those responsible for the disabled workers are pathetically
grateful for what crumbs of dignity the disabled workers are thrown and
fight tooth and nail to preserve the system that drops those crumbs!

I know whereof I speak: I have an adopted daughter with fairly severe
developmental delays. In truth, she does not have the stamina, the patience
or knowledge to hold down a production job at the moment. But a firm is
working with her as a volunteer to gain stamina and knowledge with the
expectation that she may eventually be employed at a wage better than the
Federal minimum wage or even Washington state's minimum wage which is quite
a bit higher. If, after some time, this doesn't work out, she will still
have enjoyed herself and will not have been given false hope or be

Fundamentally, in fighting to repeal Section 14c of the FLSA, we are
fighting to abolish institutionalized rewards for feelings of superiority.
In the end, the plight of these workers is not unlike the description of the
expectations of the agencies for the blind and the general public described
in "Within the Grace of God". What we're fighting for is nothing less than
the changing of society to reflect the sentiment that "there, within the
Grace of God, do go i.".

Mike Freeman

-----Original Message-----
From: nfbwatlk [mailto:nfbwatlk-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of maurice
Sent: Saturday, June 22, 2013 12:38 AM
To: NFB of Washington Talk Mailing List
Subject: Re: [nfbwatlk] elitists, huh?

No I don't think we're elitist all we want is to be treated fairly and earn
and there's a honest day's wage. Not whatever the shop owners would like to
pay blinding otherwise disabled people. I think what comes to mind is this
is a "shame". I think I will end this by saying yes we're such elitist did
they say that of the people in the generation before mine the ones who
became freedom writers and stood up for voting rights or they elitist?

Sincerely maurice mines. Secretary national Federation of the blind of
Washington Clark County Chapter. Email KD zero I KO at iCloud.com. Phone

On Jun 21, 2013, at 10:28 PM, Lauren Merryfield <lauren1 at catliness.com>

> Hi,
> I applaud this evening's coverage of Goodwill's subminimum wage 
> situation
on NBC's Rock Center!  So we're elitists, now huh?  Hm Hm Hm. Fifty thousand
of us are elitists.  Wow, what an observation.  
> Mr. Maurer's voice sounded tired, though. I sure hope he is okay. 
> I am hoping this will propel this issue into repealing of the old
subminimum wage provision.  
> I'm glad I was home to watch this presentation; I hope many of you 
> could,
> Thanks,
> Lauren, who would never, ever, ever work for subminimum wages!  No way!
> "Can you think of times when an encouraging word or act helped shape 
> your
life? Someone loved you, spoke kindly to you, gave you a chance or put an
arm around your shoulder and it changed you.  Their encouragement became the
cure for your grief, your discouragement or your loneliness.  You can be
that encourager for others in need." --Bob Patterson
> visit us at catlines.com and lettingthecatoutofthebag.com 
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