[nfbwatlk] FW: Good is Simply Not Good Enough

Mike Freeman k7uij at panix.com
Fri Aug 23 15:12:45 UTC 2013

-----Original Message-----
From: Lewis, Anil [mailto:ALewis at nfb.org] 
Sent: Friday, August 23, 2013 6:43 AM
To: curt.decker at ndrn.org
Subject: Good is Simply Not Good Enough

Good is Simply Not Good Enough
Submitted by alewis on Fri, 08/23/2013 - 08:11
Blog Date:
Friday, August 23, 2013
By Anil Lewis

Please share with your social networks:

I received a copy of a memorandum written by Curt
ction-511-of-the-rehabilitation-act.html>, executive director of the
National Disability Rights Network (NDRN).  The memo purported to be a
rebuttal of an analysis of Title V, Section 511 of the Workforce Investment
analysis%20of%20section%20511.docx>, written by Professor Samuel R.
Bagenstos, who was requested by the National Federation of the Blind to give
his professional opinion of the reauthorization language.  Mr. Decker is
unjustly critical of Professor Bagenstos's findings.  Contrary to Mr.
Decker's assertion, in his report Professor Bagenstos does not ignore the
positive components of the overall bill, nor does he ignore the fact that
there are over 400,000 individuals with disabilities currently employed at
wages far below the federal minimum.  Moreover, he does not ignore what Mr.
Decker states is "the largest segment of people with disabilities that
Section 511, in conjunction with other provisions of the bill, will
ultimately help." (Note Mr. Decker's careful wording that includes "in
conjunction with other provisions of the bill," which confuses the matter of
determining whether Section 511 is helpful or harmful on its own merit.)
Professor Bagenstos properly considered the section in context and
determined, overall, that the language would represent "a stunning step

We appreciate NDRN's continued support of the growing effort to repeal the
unfair, discriminatory, and immoral subminimum-wage provision found in
Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  We continue to point
out that the subminimum-wage provision is the root of the problem and we,
along with over fifty other national and local cross-disability
_list_8_21_13.doc>, believe that Section 14(c) of the FLSA should be
repealed.  Moreover, we agree with NDRN's assessment of the other
forward-thinking provisions in the WIA language. However, we choose not to
mask the detrimental consequences of Section 511 with the numerous other
positive improvements listed in Mr. Decker's memorandum.

The mantra of the Decker memorandum is, "I choose to not let the perfect be
the enemy of the good."  As the executive director of the Protection and
Advocacy System charged with the responsibility to zealously advocate on
behalf of people with disabilities, it is truly disappointing that Mr.
Decker is so passionate about defending a piece of legislation that he
concedes is inadequate to address the real problem.  Some are afraid that
our advocacy efforts to strike Section 511 from the bill will kill the WIA
reauthorization. We cannot afford to be afraid.  We are not advocating for
the perfect versus the good; we are advocating against the bad.  We seek
only the most basic step toward the fair and just treatment of individuals
with disabilities-payment of at least the federal minimum wage, in line with
the protection provided to all other American workers.  The true enemy is
the unfair, discriminatory, and immoral subminimum-wage provision found in
Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Mr. Decker's argument rests on the assumption that we must accept
incremental progress toward the elimination of subminimum wages. We believe
that such incremental progress is inappropriate, even as an interim goal.
Furthermore, Professor Bagenstos's analysis reveals that Section 511 will
not make even the incremental progress that we are urged to accept. It will
instead authorize subminimum-wage work as a training and work-readiness
component of the rehabilitation system and, therefore, will ultimately, if
unintentionally, lead to more rehabilitation clients being tracked into
subminimum-wage work. Our response to Mr. Decker is that if he feels Section
511 is good, then good is simply not good enough.

Those who advocate for the elimination of the wage disparity between men and
women, or for the raising of the minimum wage itself, or for better services
to assist the unemployed to re-enter the workforce, are not asked to, and
would never accept the suggestion that they should accept only incremental
progress toward their goals, or that they should accept solutions like
commensurate wages or employment training in subminimum-wage environments as
a step to achieving goals. It appears to only be problematic for people to
advocate on behalf of fairness and wage equality when the advocates are
people with disabilities.  The unfortunate reality is that we cannot align
our efforts to obtain fairness in the workplace with those of the general
public because society fails to understand that with the proper training,
opportunity, and supports, individuals with disabilities can be productive
workers.  Until we overcome this pervasive misconception, hundreds of
thousands of individuals with disabilities will continue to be denied the
proper training, opportunities, and supports to obtain competitive,
integrated employment.  As long as society can legally relegate workers with
disabilities to subminimum-wage employment, we will never change societal
perceptions that such work is all that can be expected of workers with

The different standard to which advocates with disabilities are held has
been apparent throughout the process of producing the WIA bill. We attempted
to discuss our concerns with HELP Committee staff before the committee vote.
However, we were only able to secure a few meetings in the time provided.
In fact, members of the HELP Committee staff were discouraged from
communicating with us.  We were assured that amendments to the
Rehabilitation Act language would be offered during the committee markup,
but no such amendments were offered or considered. Our attempts to engage in
informed advocacy have been labeled a smear campaign.  Many of our members
are requesting meetings with their Senators during the recess, but are being
ignored.  How will good policy be developed without open, honest, informed

There is a false perception that there is tremendous support for Section
511.  That is because support for Section 511 is being wrongly conflated
with support for the WIA bill in its entirety.  However, there is, to our
knowledge, only one stakeholder entity that is opposed to the removal of
Section 511 from the WIA reauthorization, and that entity is NDRN.  More to
the point, the question is not who supports Section 511?  The question
should be: who opposes the removal of Section 511? Again, the answer is only
one entity: NDRN.

Section 511 is doubtless well-intentioned, but its proponents would do well
to remember the famous proverb regarding good intentions being paving stones
on a  particular, and undesirable, road. Section 511 cannot and does not
accomplish its purported purpose and will actually make matters worse. We
urge the Senate to remove it from the WIA reauthorization, and we urge all
organizations of people with disabilities to affirmatively support its
removal rather than silently accepting it.

The below organizations all oppose Section 511 and support its removal from

Autistic Self-Advocacy Network
Autism Society of America
National Coalition of State Rehabilitation Councils
National Council on Disability
National Council of State Agencies for the Blind
National Down Syndrome Congress
National Down Syndrome Society
National Federation of the Blind
National Fragile X Foundation
National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities
Parent to Parent USA
Physician-Parent Caregivers

As of August 23, 2013

Mr. Anil Lewis, M.P.A.
Director of Advocacy and Policy

"Eliminating Subminimum Wages for People with Disabilities"
200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place
Baltimore, Maryland   21230
(410) 659-9314 ext. 2374 (Voice)
(410) 685-5653 (FAX)
Email: alewis at nfb.org
Web: www.nfb.org
twitter: @anillife

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