A Ridiculous Question

Blog Date: 
Thursday, January 2, 2014

By Anil Lewis

So you go to work tomorrow, and it is pay day. You receive a paycheck for $15.00 for two weeks of work. You speak to your supervisor, and you are informed that the company has switched to a new payroll model based on a new law, Section D (9) (u), that calculates wages based on a new commensurate wage formula. This new formula is only used to calculate the wages paid to you and others like you. Although you are as productive as the other employees, no one else but you and others like you are subjected to this new wage formula, especially not management or the company executives. In fact, the executives are now receiving six-figure salaries as a result of the cost savings created by the new wage structure for workers like you. You complain, to no avail. Managers attempt to convince you that this new structure still offers you the ability to receive the tangible and intangible benefits of work. After all, it is not about the money, it is about fulfillment.

This is not acceptable to you, so you seek vocational training that allows you to be a more productive employee. You go to a section D(9)(u) vocational training program that claims to be the best training program for people like you. This community training program is operated in a sheltered, segregated environment comprised of other people like you. The program assists you in developing the work and interpersonal skills necessary to be a competitive employee. They focus on teaching you real-world job skills like how to fold letters, stuff envelopes, sort hangers, hang clothes, and screw caps on pens. Although none of these tasks match your unique skills, talents, abilities or interests, it is what the training program has to offer. If there are no letters to be folded, envelopes to be stuffed, hangers to be sorted, or pens to be capped, the program offers you the opportunity to play video games, play cards, read books, or sleep.

The section D(9)(u) program costs more than other conventional training programs, but it is subsidized with public funds and operates as a charitable 501(c)(3) organization. The program has a competitive employment placement rate of less than 5 percent and therefore, most of the workers spend their entire vocational existence in this “training” program. Even though the program has no measureable positive impact on improving the employment of people like you, the marketing team is successful in their efforts of convincing public policy makers and philanthropic funding sources to feel that this is the best employment strategy for people like you.

It is obvious that this new policy is denying you the opportunity to reach your full vocational potential, while endorsing incompetent training programs and substandard employers. You want this policy repealed and you want the same workplace and wage protections as every other employee.

Okay, there is no Section D(9)(u) that exempts you from receiving equal wage protections, but there is a Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that exempts people like me from being guaranteed the federal minimum wage. So my question is, “Why is this type of discriminatory policy not so ridiculous when it applies to people like me?”

For more information, visit http://www.nfb.org/fair-wages.