National Federation of the Blind of Missouri Comments on Rescission of Minimum Wage for Disabled Workers
St. Louis, Missouri (October 2, 2015): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) of Missouri commented today on the St. Louis Board of Aldermen’s vote to reinstate an exemption from the city’s minimum wage law for sheltered workshops for people with disabilities.
Gary Wunder, President of the NFB of Missouri, said: “Several weeks ago the board of alderman for the city of St. Louis took a courageous stand by establishing a minimum wage for people who work in the city. To their credit, this included all workers, but today the disabled were excluded from the protections this minimum wage law afforded.
“I am very disappointed by the actions of the board of alderman in excluding people with disabilities from the minimum wage legislation they passed in board bill 83. I listened as the sheltered workshop executives made the case that their consumers had the right to work wherever they wished, even though there was never any argument about this point. We sought to refocus the board of alderman on the fact that sheltered workshops get preference in gaining state and federal contracts, pay no income taxes, receive subsidies from the city and the state, and are profitable enough to be able to support activities that do not benefit those they serve. Never in their testimony were sheltered workshop executives made to answer the question of their salaries or those of their management teams, and in one case an alderman was told that if he wanted the information he was free to go to the form 990 filed with the Internal Revenue Service. In no case was a sheltered workshop asked directly whether the requirement that it pay minimum wages would run it out of business. The sheltered workshops simply let the parents of their developmentally disabled workers make this claim and did nothing either to support or reject it.
By failing to make any provision for phasing out the subminimum wage, the city of St. Louis has turned its back on fair wages for people with disabilities, and this is a significant disappointment for those of us who had expressed our appreciation for the courage the city alderman had previously shown.”