FAIR WAGES FOR WORKERS WITH DISABILITIES
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Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment Act (TIME Act) (HR 188)
Current labor laws unjustly prohibit workers with disabilities from reaching their full vocational and socioeconomic potential.
Written in 1938, Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) discriminates against people with disabilities. The provision allows the Secretary of Labor to grant Special Wage Certificates to employers, permitting them to pay workers with disabilities less than the minimum wage. This is based on the false assumption that disabled workers are less productive than nondisabled workers, but successful employment models have emerged in the last seventy-five years to assist people with significant disabilities in acquiring the job skills needed for competitive work. Section 14(c) sustains segregated subminimum wage workshops that exploit disabled workers, paying some only pennies an hour for mundane, repetitive tasks.
The subminimum wage model fails to provide adequate training or employment to disabled workers. Data shows that less than five percent of the four-hundred thousand workers with disabilities in segregated subminimum wage workshops will transition into competitive integrated work. Moreover, research shows that the subminimum wage model costs more but actually produces less! In fact, workers must unlearn the useless skills they acquire in order to obtain meaningful employment. It is poor policy to reward such failed programs with wage exemptions, preferential federal contracts, and public and charitable contributions.
After more than seventy-five years of demonstrated failure, it is time to invest in proven, effective models for employment. Section 14(c) sustains the same segregated subminimum wage environments that existed in 1938 and has proven to be extremely ineffective and offers no incentive for mainstream employers to hire people with disabilities. The EmploymentFirst Movement promotes new concepts such as “supported” or “customized” employment that are successful at producing competitive integrated employment outcomes for individuals with significant disabilities that were previously thought to be unemployable.
The Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment Act will responsibly phase out Section 14(c) over a three year period and will eventually repeal the antiquated and discriminatory practice of paying people with disabilities subminimum wages. Americans with disabilities will no longer be trapped in segregated subminimum wage workshops. Current service providers will have three years to transition to a proven competitive integrated training and employment business model that assists individuals with even the most significant disabilities obtain real jobs at real wages.
To learn more about the issue and the Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment Act, please read our frequently asked questions document.
Frequently Asked Questions (Word)
The following are letters supporting the repeal of Section 14(c) of the FLSA:
- Letter of Support from the Arc of Maryland Raise Sub-Minimum Wages, Too
- Letter of Support Issued by National Disability Rights Network
- Letter of Support issued by Collaboration to Promote Self Determination
- Letter of Support issued by National Disability Leadership Alliance
- Letter of Support issued by Blind Industries and Services of Maryland
- Letter of Support issued by The Chicago Lighthouse
- Letter of Support issued by Peter Blanck, Burton Blatt Institute, Syracuse University
- Action Alert to stop the expansion of subminimum wage issued by TASH
- Letter of Support issued by Disability Rights Advocates
- Letter of Support issued by the New York State Office of Children & Family Services, Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped
You can now support the effort of the National Federation of the Blind to eliminate the practice of paying wages below the federal minimum to workers with disabilities by signing our online petition. Please sign the petition and share it with all of your colleagues, friends, and family.
Goodwill is a household name, but most households do not realize that Goodwill Industries International is one of the many employers that pay less than the federal minimum wage to its workers with disabilities while its top executives receive more than $53.7 million in total compensation. This fact was exposed by John Hrabe in the story "Policies, tax dollars enrich Goodwill execs," published by Watchdog.org in early May 2013.
Subsequently, Goodwill’s use of this practice, and attempts to defend it, were highlighted by NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams on June 21, 2013, with the story, “Disabled workers paid just pennies an hour-and it's legal.”
Goodwill, in its attempt to represent Section 14(c) as an essential tool for the provision of quality training or competitive employment of people with disabilities, actually demonstrates that entities can operate successfully without paying subminimum wages. Goodwill states that one-hundred and one of its affiliates operate successfully without paying subminimum-wages to their workers with disabilities. However, rather than adopting a policy to require the other sixty-four affiliates to operate in a similar fashion, the Goodwill representatives state that it is a local decision for these affiliates to pay their workers with disabilities subminimum-wages and that they support this choice. In order to effect change in this policy, we are urging people not to shop at thrift stores affiliated with Goodwill Industries International and/or donate goods to Goodwill until it adopts a policy requiring each of its affiliates to pay at least the federal minimum wage to all of their workers with disabilities.
On Saturday, August 25, 2012, the NFB and its affiliates and chapters conducted over ninety informational protests of Goodwill thrift store locations across the country. The purpose of the protests were to promote public awareness of the unfair, discriminatory, and immoral practice of paying subminimum-wages to workers with disabilities.
Read about protests across the country:
- South Carolina, WYFF 4 (08/26/2012): Legally blind protesters call for better wages outside Goodwill
- New York, Albany Herald (08/25/2012): Group stages minimum wage protest
- Kansas, KAKE.com (08/25/2012): Kansans Join National Protest Against Goodwill
- South Carolina, WMBF News (08/25/2012): Residents protest disabled employees pay from Goodwill stores
- Illinois, Daily Herald (08/25/2012): Group protests wages outside Des Plaines Goodwill
- Colorado, CBSDenver.com (08/25/2012): Group Protests Goodwill For Paying Disabled Workers Under Minimum Wage
- Virginia, WTVR.com (08/25/2012): A national disability group protests against Goodwill's practices
- Minnesota, TwinCities.com (08/24/2012): Organization for blind will protest at Goodwill in St. Paul
On October 31, 2013, members of the NFB, along with representatives of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), unmasked Goodwill's exploitation of workers with disabilities by delivering copies of a Change.org petition to various Goodwill headquarters across the country. The petition had already garnered one-hundred and seventy thousand signatures from Americans who demand that Goodwill pay its workers with disabilities a real wage.
Read about the petition deliveries:
- KBLU News (11/11/2013): Disability Rights Groups Call for End to Sub-Minimum Wage
- Wisconsin Public Radio (11/04/2013): Does Goodwill Pay Unfair Wages to Workers with Disabilities?
- Truth-out.org (11/01/2013): Activists Petition Goodwill to Pay Disabled Workers the Minimum Wage
- KFOR-TV (11/01/2013): Goodwill Industries accused of unethical pay to disabled workers
- Salt Lake Tribune (10/31/2013): Utah group delivers petition demanding equal wages for the blind
- Cal Watchdog.com (10/31/2013): Disability groups deliver petitions to Goodwill
To stay up-to-date on the protest and boycott activities, please follow @NFB_Voice on Twitter. Please use the hash tag #FAIRWAGES and Goodwill’s Twitter handle @GoodwillIntl to monitor and post about local protests and boycott on your own Twitter accounts. You may also become a fan of the National Federation of the Blind on Facebook, and post comments to Goodwill’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/GoodwillIntl.
- Melia Preedy Law Note, Spring 2014
- United States General Accounting Office (GOA) Report to the Committee on Education and Labor, House of Representatives: Wage and Hour Division Needs Improved Investigative Processes and Ability to Suspend Statute of Limitations to Better Protect Workers Against Wage Theft
- Congressional Research Service Report: Treatment of Workers with Disabilities Under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act
- United States General Accounting Office (GOA) Report to The Honorable Barry M. Goldwater, Jr.: Stronger Federal Efforts Needed for Providing Employment Opportunities and Enforcing Labor Standards in Sheltered Workshops
- United States General Accounting Office (GOA) Report to Congressional Requesters: Special Minimum Wage Program
- Study: Do sheltered workshops enhance employment outcomes for adults with autism spectrum disorder?
- A report by National Disability Rights Network: Beyond Segregated and Exploited
- A report by National Disability Rights Network: Segregated & Exploited
- Letter of Transmittal to President Barack Obama from the National Council on Disability regarding: Subminimum Wage and Supported Employment
- A report by Samuel R. Bagenstos, former Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Justice: The Case Against the Section 14(c) Subminimum Wage Program
- An article by Michael Callahan, Marc Gold & Associates/Employment for All:The Productivity Fallacy: Why people are worth more than just how fast their hands move
- PublicSource (09/28/2014): Vermont closed workshops for people with disabilities; what happened next?
- Erie Times-News (07/27/2014): Thousands of disabled workers in Pennsylvania paid far below minimum wage
- Watchdog Report (07/03/2014): Workers with disabilities earn pennies per hour
- Baltimore Sun (06/30/2014): 'Subminimum Wage' for Disabled Workers Called Exploitative
- The Hill (06/03/2014) Subminimum Wage Must End
- New York Times (03/09/2014): The 'Boys' in the Bunkhouse
- The Daily Record (02/28/2014): Cari DeSantis: Fair Pay for Workers with Disabilities
- Galaxy Report (02/20/2014): Providence Vocational School to Pay More than $250K in Backwages
- Fortune (02/12/2014): Disabled workers left in the cold on minimum wage
- Mint Press News (11/25/2013): Goodwill Pays Workers With Disabilities Less Than Minimum Wage
- Forbes.com (07/31/2013): Does Goodwill Industries Exploit Disabled Workers?
- Salon.com (06/21/2013): Goodwill Pays its Workers with Disabilities As Little As 22 Cents an Hour
- Huffington Post (05/20/2013): Goodwill Exploits Workers With Disabilities, Report Claims
- Huffington Post (05/15/2013): Goodwill Minimum Wage Loophole Will Shock You
- Jewish Week (04/08/2013): Compassion Can Be Discrimination
- MLive.com (09/07/2012): Protest planned for grand opening of Goodwill's new location in Metro Detroit
Below are videos promoting our effort to raise awareness about the injustice of subminimum-wage.
- 'Subminimum Wage' for Disabled Workers Called Exploitative
- A Source of America's Discrimination Agaisnt Workers with Disabilities
- Exposing the Corruption of Goodwill
- American Workers Speak Out Against Subminimum Wages
- Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities
- Legally Blind Protesters Call for Better Wages Outside Goodwill
- Paying Disabled Workers Below Minimum Wage
- NBC-Harry Smith Exposes Loophole that Allows Goodwill to Pay Handicapped Employees $0.22 an Hour
- Goodwill Pays Disabled Employees Less Than Minimum Wage
- 14(c) Must Be Repealed!
To keep current on NFB videos and our effort to raise awareness about the injustice of subminimum-wage please suscbribe to our YouTube channel, NationsBlind.
- Sheltered Workshops and the Subminimum Wage: What Goes Around Comes Around (Braille Monitor, March 1986)
- Fair Labor Standards Amendments Open New Doors For Shop Workers (Braille Monitor, January 1987)
- Victory for Workshop Workers and the National Federation of the Blind in Lubbock (Braille Monitor, February 1989)
- Fair Labor Standards: What Blind People Need to Know About Their Rights (Braille Monitor, December 1990)
- Wage Protection for Blind Workers: The Legislative Struggle Begins Again (Braille Monitor, June 1994)
- A Voice of the Nation’s Blind blog post (12/14/2014): The TIME Act: Transition to Integrated and Meaningful Employment Act
- A Voice of the Nation’s Blind blog post (11/17/2014): Where is the Outrage?
- A Voice of the Nation’s Blind blog post (04/28/2014): This is Not Acceptable for Workers with Disabilities
- A Voice of the Nation’s Blind blog post (03/10/2014): The Horrors of Atalissa
- A Voice of the Nation’s Blind blog post (02/28/2014): With Race and Disability, What is Fair and Right, is Fair and Right for All
- A Voice of the Nation’s Blind blog post (01/24/2014): Ten Reasons Why You Should Support the Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act (H.R. 831)
- A Voice of the Nation’s Blind blog post (01/09/2014): Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act: 100 Percent Wrong
- A Voice of the Nation’s Blind blog post (01/02/2014): A Ridiculous Question
- A Voice of the Nation’s Blind blog post (12/19/2014): All Charitable Contributions Sustain Exploitive Services
- A Voice of the Nation's Blind blog post (11/15/2013): 75 Years of the Fair Labor Standards Act and People with Disabilities Have No Reason to Celebrate
- A Voice of the Nation's Blind blog post (10/29/2013): Unmasking the Exploitation of Workers with Disabilities
- A Voice of the Nation's Blind blog post (06/21/2013): The Sin of Omission: A Rebuttal of Goodwill's Policy Statement on Subminimum Wage Payments to Workers with Disabilities
- A Voice of the Nation's Blind blog post (04/22/2013) Victims of the Exemption
- A Voice of the Nation's Blind blog post (04/15/2013) The Commensurate Wage Fallacy
- A Voice of the Nation's Blind blog post (11/01/2012): We're Not Giving Up
- A February 23, 2012 letter from Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the NFB, to the House of Representatives re: Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities
- An article by Anil Lewis, Director of Strategic Communications, NFB: Fair Wages for People with Disabilities (Braille Monitor, November 2011)
- A Speech Delivered by Frederic K. Schroeder, Ph.D. (07/08/2011): No More Subminimum Wages: The Time is Now!
National Federation of the Blind Press Release (01/07/2015): National Federation of the Blind Applauds Introduction of Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment Act
Association of People Supporting EmploymentFirst (APSE) Press Release (01/09/2015): APSE Applauds Introduction of TIME Act of 2015
National Federation of the Blind Press Release (02/12/2014): National Federation of the Blind Commends President Obama for Executive Order on Wages
National Federation of the Blind Press Release (02/24/2014): National Federation of the Blind Applauds Resolution to Phase Out Section 14(c) of Fair Labor Standards Act
- National Federation of the Blind Press Release (10/31/2013): National Federation of the Blind to Unmask Goodwill's Exploitation of Workers with Disabilities
- National Federation of the Blind Press Release (07/29/2013): National Federation of the Blind: Workforce Investment Act Sabotages Rehabilitation Act
- National Federation of the Blind Press Release (02/27/2013): National Federation of the Blind Applauds Introduction of Fair Wages Legislation
- National Federation of the Blind Press Release (08/20/2012): Americans with Disabilities to Protest Goodwill's Subminimum Wages
- National Federation of the Blind Press Release (06/20/2012): Governor Paterson Calls for At Least Minimum Wage for Disabled Workers
- National Federation of the Blind Press Release (06/11/2012): National Federation of the Blind Responds to Goodwill Statement on Subminimum Wages
- National Federation of the Blind Press Release (06/07/2012): National Federation of the Blind Urges Boycott of Goodwill Industries
- National Federation of the Blind Press Release (10/04/2011): U.S. Representatives Stearns and Bishop Introduce Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act
- National Federation of the Blind Press Release (07/25/2011): Former New York Governor Comments on Subminimum Wages for Disabled Workers
- National Federation of the Blind Resolutions for 2013-02: Resolution 2013-02 Regarding Ending Subminimum Wage Payments to Workers with Disabilities (Word)
- National Federation of the Blind Resolution 2012-01: Regarding Support for the Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act of 2011
- National Federation of the Blind Resolution 2011-09: Regarding Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities
- National Federation of the Blind Resolution 2010-11: Regarding National Industries for the Blind and the Definition of "Employment Outcome" in the Vocational Rehabilitation Program
For further information on this important issue, please contact:
Government Affairs Specialist
National Federation of the Blind
(410) 659-9314, extension 2441
For future updates, please follow NFB_Voice on Twitter (and please use the hashtag #FAIRWAGES when posting about this issue), or sign up to receive our press releases. Please help us to achieve true equality for Americans with disabilities.