Secretary Clinton Puts the Spotlight on Subminimum Pay for Employees with Disabilities

Secretary Clinton Puts the Spotlight on Subminimum Pay for Employees with Disabilities

When I read the recent statement from Secretary Clinton on her desire to demand equal pay for all people, including people with disabilities, I was energized.  For years the disability community has tried to end the exploitation of subminimum pay and sheltered workshops.

In 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law the Fair Labor Standards Act establishing basic minimum wage and overtime pay for employees. There was an exception in the law for some employers to pay people with disabilties subminimum wages that could be extremely low. At times, the pay could be as low 8 cents per hour. 

The subminimum pay exception, 14(c), was originally created to encourage employers to hire veterans with physical disabilties returning from the war. It was never intended to be used to create sheltered workshops where people with disabilties would be paid substantially below the minimum wage and perform menial tasks with no chance of leaving for competitive employment.  Unfortunately, 14(c) has become synonymous with sheltered workshops in the disability community.

It is important to remember that years ago, people with disabilities, including my own disability, epilepsy, were warehoused in institutions because many people in society believed that these individuals were not able to succeed in life outside of an institution.  Today, it is widely realized that this is not true, but the existence of sheltered workshops reinforces the misconception that people with disabilities are unable to perform the same work tasks as people without disabilities—which is really the equivalent of viewing us as less.

The words from Secretary Clinton brought these issues to the forefront.  “When it comes to jobs, we’ve got to figure out how we get the minimum wage up and include people with disabilties in the minimum wage.”

Historically speaking, no Presidential candidate had ever spoken out against the discriminatory practice of subminimum pay for people with disabilities while running for office.  More broadly, anytime a candidate addresses disability issues on the campaign trail, regardless of party affiliation, it helps voters with disabilities, and other voters impacted by disability, understand where they stand on these critical issues.

AAPD offers a resource as part of their Rev Up campaign to provide information on the position of each candidate on the issues important to our community.  As information is provided by each of the campaigns, it will be posted in this central location.

No matter what a person’s political affiliation may be, it is important to be informed and exercising your right to participate fully in the political process.  Make your voice heard through your vote!

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