The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) is one of the most longstanding and public opponents of sheltered workshops and subminimum wages for people with disabilities. Our members across the United States believe that people with disabilities have the same rights and value as Americans without disabilities. The concept of legalized substandard wages for Americans with disabilities is wrong, period!
Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act should be abolished. This anachronistic and discriminatory legislation continues to be an embarrassment to justice, and NCIL joins the vast majority of the disability community that seeks an end to years of manipulation and exploitation. This is why NCIL stands with Senator Harkin in support of Section 511 within the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 2013 (S.1356). Section 511 of WIA does more to keep people with disabilities out of sheltered workshops and subminimum wage employment than doing nothing at all.
There are opponents of Section 511, and NCIL, similar to the opponents of Section 511, believes that subminimum wage should just be eliminated! However, NCIL supports section 511 because while not perfect, it is a vast improvement to current law because of the barriers and checkpoints it creates to prevent youth from being automatically directed towards sheltered workshops. Current law does absolutely nothing to prevent people from being placed in sheltered employment.
The bipartisan WIA bill has an overwhelming amount of support from the disability community, and would even make history with language that strengthens the ability of Americans with disabilities to live more independently than ever before. S.1356, which also reauthorizes the Rehabilitation Act, is the product of years of work and compromise within the disability community.
The problem is not Section 511, the problem is Section 14(c). Section 511 moves us in the right direction, creating meaningful obstacles to prevent people with disabilities from being shuffled into segregated, noncompetitive, subminimum wage employment. It is important to remember that language for Section 511 is offered by Senator Tom Harkin, one of the most respected champions of disability rights this nation has known. Section 511 stands as the most realistic and effective solution in this tough political climate to decrease the amount of workers with disabilities that are currently being used and degraded.
NCIL believes that it is important to include Section 511 in the reauthorization of WIA and the Rehabilitation Act. Without this provision, the status quo would mean that thousands of people with disabilities will continue to be funneled towards exploitation instead of opportunity.