BOX 11185

If you or a friend would like to remember the National Federation of the Blind in your will, you can do so by employing the following language:

"I give, devise, and bequeath unto National Federation of the Blind, a District of Columbia nonprofit corporation, the sum of $_____ (or "_____ percent of my net estate" or "the following stocks and bonds:_____ ") to be used for its worthy purposes on behalf of blind persons."






(Note: This entire issue was prepared and edited by James Gashel.)








by Tom Mills

by Gerald Paice

by Alan Schlank

by Debra Stewart


Copyright, National Federation of the Blind, Inc., 1980


In his presidential report at the 1979 NFB Convention in Miami Beach, Dr. Jernigan announced the progress and conclusive victory which would soon be final in the Steven Henry case. Although the settlement negotiations took several months longer than expected, the precise terms have now been agreed to, and Steven Henry is at last at work. This is a great victory for us all, and all of us are one step closer to equality because of it. Collectively, we have once again pooled our resources and won for a blind person the right to hold a full-time job; this is a tribute to our movement, but even more, it is living proof of our love for each other and our commitment to stand and fight together. This victory is also a tribute to Steven Henry, for it is never easy to be on the front lines when we go forth to combat discrimination.

Recapping the case briefly, Steven Henry took a job with the United States Postal Service in January, 1974. Initially he agreed to be assigned as a part-time flexible employee, working 20 hours per week, but the Postmaster had given assurances that Steven would have a full-time position when something better became available. So Henry hoped for the best and took the job on the promise that advancement and a more challenging opportunity would be forthcoming. He had more than the required education and skills, but as is so often the case with blind people, Steven had never been given a chance to prove himself. Yet, his academic record was excellent.

The job which Steven was given was nothing at all to write home about. His position involved answering an occasional telephone call, stuffing envelopes for annual United Way drives, typing a few stencils, placing mail in an outgoing mail bin, and otherwise doing make-work jobs. Many times he was told to save some work in case someone came into the office. On several occasions Henry requested additional work assignments, but every time he was met with the same traditional response, "We know of nothing here you can really do, so just be happy with what you have." This went on for a period of more than two years, but finally (knowing that what he was being told by Postal Service officials was utterly and completely wrong) Steven decided that a change would have to be made.

Enter, the National Federation of the Blind, for fighting discrimination often requires collective action. Certainly this is apt to be the case when the structure you are taking on is a bureaucracy as large as the United States Postal Service. Under the circumstances, the Federation was well suited to the task. Upon his return from our 1976 NFB National Convention in Los Angeles, and imbued with the spirit of Federationism and the will to fight for his rights, Henry filed his grievance against the Postal Service beginning the long process of meetings, hearings, negotiations, and delays, which have now culminated in complete and total victory. More details of the events and circumstances which led to the initial grievance are contained in the Braille Monitor of August, 1977. Along the way we also found it necessary to charge the Postal Service with "unfair labor practices," since blatant reprisals had been taken against Steven for pursuing his grievance through legitimate and established channels of appeal. To resist these reprisals, formal charges were filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and in June of 1978 the Board handed down its ruling, in a decision of precedent setting value the Postal Service was ordered to cease the reprisals against Henry. Back pay, in the amount of several thousand dollars which had illegally been withheld, was also returned to Henry by order of the Labor Board. This was an historic ruling and another first for the Federation. A full account of this portion of the Steven Henry case is contained in the Braille Monitor of July, 1978. But, the NLRB decision was only part of what had to be accomplished to achieve an ultimate victory.

The central and overriding question in this case (apart from the unfair labor practices which were ordered to be stopped by the National Labor Relations Board) was "can a blind person actually perform useful work in a typical installation under the control and operation of the United States Postal Service?" To us, the answer seems obvious; a resounding "yes" is our reply. But to the Postmaster (Paul Burke) and his colleagues at the New Orleans, Louisiana Post Office, the response was quite definitely in the negative. They weren't even really very subtle about the whole matter, it was clear (or so they thought) that a blind person could not work in a Post Office, and that was to be the end of it. In fact, the attitude seemed to be that it was probably a mistake to have hired Steven at the Post Office in the first place, and, therefore, every possible tactic was used to try to convince him to leave. Thus, despite Steven's capabilities, he was assigned the most menial jobs, and when something which nobody else wanted was not available, Henry was left to sit at his desk and wait for the world to pass him by.

This was the crux of the grievance, for in our quest for jobs and an end to discrimination in the work force, we are not just seeking a kind of token recognition; we are actually asserting our right and our capacity to work and to be productive. Tokenism is not for us, and it was not for Steven Henry, thus together we pushed on. Under the terms of an elaborate collective bargaining agreement, employees of the United States Postal Service have a multi-stage grievance procedure available. There are five steps in all; Steven Henry lost at the first four levels. But the final stage involves binding arbitration, and in this case the Postal Service hierarchy was apparently not prepared to defend its shabby treatment of Steven Henry before a federal arbitrator. For one thing, the primary basis for denying Henry any meaningful employment was the Postal Service's assertion that "advancement in the Postal Service depended on the ability to read print."

This position and the discriminatory treatment of Henry which followed from it was clearly unsupportable. Literally thousands of blind people work in professional and clerical positions which involve regular and routine use of materials prepared in ordinary ink print. But the Postal Service had to be convinced, and sometimes it takes rather aggressive action, such as a lawsuit (or as in this case an arbitration proceeding), to educate folks. In the final analysis, though, the message was delivered and received; so as the judgment day approached, Postal authorities were somehow more interested in talking to us about what possibilities there might be for Steven to work at more than a token job in the Post Office. My what a marvelous thing, this arbitration, somehow it has a way of getting folks to pay attention. One day the blind are helpless, but the next day (and under the threat of a pending order) the blind might actually be regarded as competent.

The settlement which has now been finalized recognizes and incorporates the concept that blindness does not bar one from competing on terms of equality in the work force even where printed material is concerned. The outcome should have nationwide implications for recruitment, training, and promotional opportunities for blind people to work in the Postal Service, and beyond this the decision may be used as a stepping stone to greatly expanded employment opportunities for the blind, both federally and in the private sector. Here are the specific terms:

1. Henry will be appointed to the Level 4 position of Clerk-Typist which will pay him $17,353 annually; he will also be eligible to receive all standard Postal Service fringe benefits.

2. Henry will be appointed a "full-time" "regular" employee of the Postal Service; his "special" status conferred by reason of his blindness is forever gone.

3. The Postal Service has expressly agreed to secure the use of "such devices as recommended and determined necessary as reasonable accommodations" for Henry to perform his duties.

4. Henry will be allowed the additional training time of ninety (90) days to become fully acclimated to his new job; this period is expressly recognized to not be a probationary period.

5. Significantly, the Postal Service has also agreed to secure the use of all devices as reasonable accommodations which may be necessary for Henry to perform the Level 5 job of clerk stenographer, when he becomes eligible to bid for that slot.

6. The final term of the agreement (although not appearing expressly therein) is that the Postal Service will voluntarily pay attorney's fees in the amount of $500. This does not even begin to approximate the substantial legal fees which we paid in order to achieve this victory, but (together with the other elements of the agreement) the payment represents a degree of admission by the Postal Service that their actions were truly wrong.

Thus we have won a clear and unmistakable victory in the Steven Henry case. The battle was long (over four years), yet consistently we had to maintain a strong position as we faced every conceivable maneuver, evasion, and delay. But the strength of our movement is that we are equipped to meet these tactics head on and to fight as we must with faith and the conviction that justice will be with us in the end. To be sure, our battles against discrimination require courage and commitment by each and every Federationist, and we must never forget that our collective strength is our most important resource. Whether the situation involves the right of a blind person to a job, an education, independent travel without unreasonable restriction, or the denial of some other basic right enjoyed by all other citizens, no matter what, we must always be vigilant as a movement, and we must maintain our capacity to defend one another. This is the spirit of Federationism in action; the Steven Henry case has taught us once again what it means to have love for each other and to feel deeply the pain of discrimination. But collectively, as we have now demonstrated repeatedly and beyond any shadow of a doubt, we have the power and the strength to achieve the status of equality. Above all, this is the business of the Federation, this is why we give of our time, our energy, and our money. It is why we are proud to walk together, and it is why we are proud to stand and fight.

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In the December, 1979 issue of the Braille Monitor we reported the "Twin Victories" achieved when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) handed down its back-to-back rulings in collective bargaining cases involving the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and the Lighthouse for the Blind of Houston. But the newly won rights for blind workers, which are unquestionably affirmed by both of these decisions, remain as of yet matters of contest and controversy while the administrative and legal processes grind along. Here is a brief recap of the status of things at the point where we last left them in December.

On June 7, 1978, the shop workers at the Cincinnati Association for the Blind made history when they voted 44 to 35 to be represented by Truck Drivers, Chauffeurs, and Helpers Local Union No. 100 affiliated with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. This was a great day, not only for the blind of Cincinnati, but a banner day for the blind in every part of this country. Finally we had done it—a group of shop workers had stood together in the face of false promises from management along with all sorts of threats, intimidations, and attempts to buy them off. But in reality, although many of us didn't realize it at the time, this was only the beginning step. You see, we are actually quite new at this business of collective bargaining, so many of us naively believed that once the Board had ruled and the workers had upheld the union, the next thing would be meetings across the bargaining table, and we were sure that the first contract would soon be forthcoming. Ah, yes, what babes in the woods we were, but through first-hand experience we now know the facts and we are fully prepared to deal with them at any time.

As the events have now transpired in Cincinnati, they fit the typical scenario which will inevitably run its course as any employer attempts to avoid the outcome of a union representation decision. First the Association ignored the official certification of the Teamsters as the recognized collective bargaining unit and literally failed to respond when invited by the Teamsters to commence contract negotiations. This was a predictable move, and it was also predictable that the case would then go back to the National Labor Relations Board for prosecution of unfair labor practice charges, since under the National Labor Relations Act an employer is not really allowed to ignore forever the results of a union representation election. Although we felt quite confident that the Board would (in considering the unfair labor practice charges) reaffirm the position it had taken when it originally ordered the election in the case of the Cincinnati Association, there was always the possibility that attitudes might change and new evidence would come to light which would somehow reverse the earlier decision. Thus it was with hope and encouragement that we greeted the order of the NLRB which came down on September 18, 1979, directing the Cincinnati Association for the Blind to "cease and desist" from committing unfair labor practices by refusing to engage in collective bargaining.

Meanwhile, following on the heels of the Cincinnati case, the workers at the Lighthouse for the Blind of Houston also initiated demands for the establishment of a collective bargaining unit to act on their behalf. In all respects, except for a few important technical details, the Houston case is virtually identical to the one in Cincinnati. One significant difference, however, is that the regional NLRB director in Houston recognized the Chicago Lighthouse and Cincinnati cases as precedent setting and acted on his own initiative by ordering Lighthouse management to permit the actual representation election. The Lighthouse was plainly out-gunned, so, seizing the only option available to it, the Lighthouse management filed an appeal which they knew would inevitably result in transferring the case to the national Board in Washington, further postponing the time when they would be obligated to bargain with the labor union. Again, the months went by, and the lawyers prepared their briefs. There was, of course, hope that the decision in Houston would parallel the earlier one which had ordered an election in Cincinnati, but there was no assurance that the Board, upon its rethinking and reevaluation of the entire matter of union representation in sheltered workshops, would not arrive at an entirely different position. Then, on September 18, we got the word—the ballots (which had been impounded pending the Board's determination) were to be counted in Houston and the regional NLRB director was empowered to act according to the results of the election. Six days later, on September 24, the tally was released, and once more the union (again it was the Teamsters) had emerged victorious, so we were off and running with the second unionized workshop in this country. So this is where matters stood at the time we last reported them.

By now, having the experience of Cincinnati under our belts, the response of the Lighthouse for the Blind of Houston to the NLRB's September 18th order should hardly be a matter of speculation. Again, in Houston, as in Cincinnati, the union was certified pursuant to the results of the election, but when the request came to initiate collective bargaining, the Lighthouse first was silent then openly, and in writing, refused to join in good faith with the union in negotiating a contract on behalf of the workers. This failure to bargain is, as we have learned from the Cincinnati case, a violation of the National Labor Relations Act and thus the Houston case was back before the NLRB in the form of an unfair labor practice charge for refusal to recognize a duly certified and properly elected collective bargaining unit. The Board has now ruled; the earlier decision (the one to order an election and establish a collective bargaining unit) is fully and completely unheld. There are no equivocations or qualifications, the Lighthouse for the Blind of Houston is the second sheltered workshop to win the distinctive honor of having its business conduct officially cited as being in violation of the National Labor Relations Act. Reprinted below is a portion of the official decision and order of the National Labor Relations Board followed by an article which appeared in the Houston Post.

Findings of Fact

I. The Business of Respondent

Respondent (Lighthouse for the Blind of Houston) is, and has been at all material times herein, a nonprofit Texas corporation with its principal office and place of business in Houston, Texas, where it maintains and operates various manufacturing facilities, utilizing therein sight-impaired employees.

During the past 12 months, a representative period. Respondent, in the course and conduct of its business as described above, sold goods and supplies valued in excess of $50,000 directly from its Houston, Texas, facility to points located outside the State of Texas. Respondent also received gross revenues in excess of $4 million from sales of such products as "Skilcraft" felt-tip pens, disinfectant, and detergent, mostly to the United States Government.

We find, on the basis of the foregoing, that Respondent is, and has been at all times material herein, an employer engaged in commerce within the meaning of Section 2(6) and (7) of the Act, and that it will effectuate the policies of the Act to assert jurisdiction herein.

II. The Labor Organization Involved

General Drivers, Warehousemen and Helpers Local Union No. 968, affiliated with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America, is a labor organization within the meaning of Section 2(5) of the Act.

III. The Unfair Labor Practices

A. The Representation Proceeding

1. The unit

The following employees of Respondent constitute a unit appropriate for collective-bargaining purposes within the meaning of Section 9(b) of the Act:

All production and maintenance employees employed by the Respondent in the Industrial Division workshop of its Houston, Texas, facility, excluding all other employees, employees in workshop B, office clerical employees, professional employees, technical employees, guards and supervisors as defined in the Act.

2. The certification

On January 5, 1979, a majority of the employees of Respondent in said unit, in a secret-ballot election conducted under the supervision of the Regional Director for Region 23 designated the Union as their representative for the purpose of collective bargaining with Respondent. The Union was certified as the collective-bargaining representative of the employees in said unit on October 19, 1979, and the Union continues to be such exclusive representative within the meaning of Section 9(a) of the Act.

B. The Unfair Labor Practices

Commencing on or about November 8, 1979, and at all times thereafter, the Union has requested Respondent to bargain collectively with it as the exclusive collective-bargaining representative of all the employees in the above-described unit. Commencing on or about November 21, 1979, and continuing at all times thereafter to date. Respondent has: (1) refused to recognize the Union as the exclusive representative for collective bargaining of all employees in said unit; (2) refused to bargain with the Union over wages, hours, working conditions, and conditions of employment; and (3) refused the Union's request for the names, dates of hire, job classifications, rates of pay, overtime policy, insurance coverage, paid holidays, established and/or posted work rules, and any other benefits enjoyed by employees in the unit.

Accordingly, we find that Respondent has, since November 21, 1979, and at all times thereafter, refused to bargain collectively with the Union as the exclusive representative of the employees in the appropriate unit, and that, by such refusal, Respondent has engaged in and is engaging in unfair labor practices within the meaning of Section 8(a) (5) and (1) of the Act.

IV. The Effect of the Unfair Labor Practices Upon Commerce

The activities of Respondent set forth in section III, above, occurring in connection with its operations described in section I, above, have a close, intimate, and substantial relationship to trade, traffic, and commerce among the several States and tend to lead to labor disputes burdening and obstructing commerce and the free flow of commerce.

V. The Remedy

Having found that Respondent has engaged in and is engaging in unfair labor practices within the meaning of Section 8(a) (5) and (1) of the Act, we shall order that it cease and desist there-from, and, upon request, bargain collectively with the Union as the exclusive representative of all employees in the appropriate unit, and, if an understanding is reached, embody such understanding in a signed agreement. We shall also order that Respondent, upon request, shall furnish to the Union the information with respect to unit employees which it requested by letter dated November 8, 1979.

In order to insure that the employees in the appropriate unit will be accorded the services of their selected bargaining agent for the period provided by law, we shall construe the initial period of certification as beginning on the date Respondent commences to bargain in good faith with the Union as the recognized bargaining representative in the appropriate unit.

From The Houston Post/Thurs., May 1, 1980

Lighthouse vows not to recognize Teamsters

By ERNA SMITH, Post Reporter

Lighthouse of Houston officials Wednesday vowed to defy a National Labor Relations Board ruling ordering them to recognize a Teamsters local as the bargaining agent of its blind workers.

Lighthouse workers voted in January 1979 to join the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 968. The election was validated by the NLRB regional office here in Houston last September.

On Tuesday, the NLRB in Washington ordered the agency to begin bargaining with the Teamsters.

Lighthouse officials said the agency will not obey the NLRB ruling because the workers are not employees within the meaning of the labor relations act, but "clients" to be rehabilitated.

"We obviously are going to continue litigation," said Gibson M. DuTerroil, Lighthouse president. "I don't think there's any question there."

Louis Baldovin, regional NLRB director, said if the Lighthouse refuses to bargain with the Teamsters his agency will seek a court order to enforce its decision.

"Either the employer complies with the board order and sits down and bargains with the union or if they refuse to do so, the board order is not self-enforcing and we will file with the 5th (U.S.) Circuit Court of Appeals for a petition to enforce the board's order," he said.

The NLRB ruling does not address the workers versus "clients" issue, DuTerroil argued, noting a similar union move by Cincinnati's blind workers is pending in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"It seems to me these people look like workers, are paid like workers, get sick leave like workers and get reprimanded like workers," said Glen Crosby, Texas president of the National Federation of the Blind.

"And, as was pointed out in the original hearings a year ago, you may call these people clients all you want. But many of them have been rehabilitating for 20 and 30 years. How long does it take to rehabilitate one?"

Between 60-70 workers in the Lighthouse's industrial division are affected by the order, officials said.

Returning to events which are yet unfolding in the case of Cincinnati, the matter is now pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. To use the legal terminology, the case is formally styled: Cincinnati Association for the Blind, Petitioner V. National Labor Relations Board, Respondent, Case No. 79-1522.

It will be noted, of course, that the title of this case reflects the fact that the Cincinnati Association for the Blind is now compelled to contest a final and binding ruling of the National Labor Relations Board, and it goes without saying that the Board does not take kindly to having employers ignore the orders which the law empowers it to issue. Thus, the next phase of the traditional scenario (the federal court appeal process) is fully underway. We have come a long way from the days when collective bargaining was a dream and the plan in our resolutions and speeches in the movement. Over the many years, and despite the attempts to divert or even to subvert us, we have continued to keep the faith and we continue to fight on toward what we know will be eventual victory.

At this point the Federation is officially designated as "Amicus Curiae" (friend of the court) in the proceeding now before the U.S. Court of Appeals, and as this issue of the Monitor goes to press, our attorneys are preparing to file a detailed brief supporting the position of the National Labor Relations Board. Representing the other side, briefs have already been filed by the Cincinnati Association for the Blind, petitioner, and its supporters, one of which is none other than the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC). It should not come as any shock that NAC would so align itself with the most repressive elements of the workshop and agency establishment, for NAC itself is a child of these agencies, and NAC's every move is designed to protect and insulate them from the legitimate expression of blind consumer demand. NAC is touted as a force for progress and quality service to the blind yet NAC's every action, and indeed, the origin of NAC's existence itself, proves the complete and utter falseness of these assertions.

By this time there should be no doubt as to the ever-growing body of evidence to show how NAC has been forged as a tool and used as a weapon to promote continued and further subjugation of the blind. All NAC's statements and protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, the NAC philosophy smacks of medieval custodialism wherein the blind were regarded as irresponsible fools and inferiors while being led about as helpless unfortunates and paraded as public spectacles. To be sure the NAC philosophy is well dressed up in the garb of modern and more genteel terminology, but even so, the principal tenets of the disaster concept of blindness are inescapably apparent as a natural and inevitable outgrowth of NAC's every word and deed.

But, why not let NAC present its own philosophy? Yes, indeed, why not? Here, in their own words, is the summary of NAC's argument against union organizing in sheltered workshops, quoted directly from the pages of the NAC brief filed on February 22, 1980 in support of the Cincinnati Association for the Blind:

Union objectives in collective bargaining are essentially to obtain the maximum compensation and economic advantage for the worker. Such pressure in collective bargaining can be applied to a private employer because the private employer has the ability to raise prices to incorporate concessions made under the pressure of union bargaining. The sheltered workshop does not operate for profit. It obtains contract work for its handicapped clients because the level of compensation paid to its workers of limited, and often minimal, productivity often enables it to obtain such contracts. If collective bargaining were to impose on the sheltered workshops a scale of compensation which renders them unable to produce goods or services at a price competitive with the offerings of private employers who employ workers of normal productivity, then there will be no means whereby the work programs of sheltered workshops can be continued. This factor is recognized by law in the certificates granted to sheltered workshops under the regulations of the Department of Labor. To allow collective bargaining by unions against workshop employers would be to allow the threat of extinction by economic pressure to be imposed on a philanthropic function the only objective of which is to aid the handicapped whom they serve. It would be to substitute the pressure of a union, which is motivated by a desire to increase membership and income from dues, for the solicitude of a philanthropic organization whose objective at all times is to maximize the productivity and income of the handicapped person. To the extent that the operations of a sheltered workshop should produce revenues above costs, such excess revenues are applied solely to extend benefits to those served by the philanthropic organization; there is no profit motive served at any time.

The decision of the NRLB in Goodwill Industries of Southern California, 231 NLRB No. 49 (1977) recognizes what is stated above; the decision below in the instant case disregards it.

NFB's support of the decision of the Board is entirely consistent with its viewpoint that sheltered workshops should be phased out and the blind and visually handicapped placed in private industry. What is not put forward by the NFB is a means whereby the blind and visually handicapped person can readily become employable in private industry. The experience of centuries discloses that the needs of the handicapped cannot be satisfied by private industry and that there is at all times a need for the support and assistance of philanthropic organizations. NFB's support of the decision below serves its objective of terminating the existence of sheltered workshops. It is submitted, however, that the decision below is erroneous in equating philanthropically-operated places of employment with private industry, and in ignoring that the imposition of wage bargaining in sheltered workshops will tend to destroy their existence and to leave stranded the many blind and visually handicapped persons who derive the following from the sheltered workshop—1) earnings for persons of limited economic capability, 2) the possibility of improving work skills to the level of entry into private industry and 3) the psychological benefits obtained from a disabled person's participation in a work setting with his peers.

So, there you have it, and straight from the professionals and their attorneys who officially represent the views of NAC. Do you think they would like to take it all back or somehow offer apologies for their views? They can't do it, their views are plain for all to read, and they are on the public record. According to NAC, "the experience of centuries" tells us that the blind can never be equal to others for it "discloses," presumably without equivocation or reservation, "that the needs of the handicapped" (note that it is not just some of the handicapped, but all of the handicapped) "cannot be satisfied by private industry ..." My, what a statement, and with such arrogant finality and certainty at that. According to NAC it is not really a matter of speculation—the blind (presumably as a class among the handicapped) are actually and irrevocably inferior, and we must never expect to compete truly on terms of equality in the private labor force. Furthermore, the NAC statement continues by asserting that "there is at all times the need for the support and assistance of philanthropic organizations." Goodness, what a completely custodial view of our present status and future prospects; the blind are on the one hand inferior, they can't cut it on equal terms in competitive employment, but then to top it off, the poor devils are also dependent, for they can never break loose from a system of charities especially constructed and designed to look after them.

Note, too, the justification for all of this by means of the presumption that the blind will inevitably belong to a class which can only be labeled as incompetents. Describing the marketing capacity of sheltered workshops, the NAC brief states: "It (referring to the sheltered workshop) obtains contract work for its handicapped clients because the level of compensation paid to its workers of limited, and often minimal, productivity often enables it to obtain such contracts." Now, one might begin by disputing this statement on purely factual grounds (for example, by pointing out that roughly 5,000 of these limited and minimally productive blind workers produced goods and services worth $127,267,416 in the National Industries for the Blind system alone last year), but also, if you think about it for just a little while, it is clear that this is not a very complimentary comment. What seems to be stated clearly (or at the very least, it is very strongly implied) is the notion that contracts are awarded to sheltered workshops not because of the quality of the work they do or the efficiency by which they do it, but solely because the prices are the cheapest. In other words, this is the old myth which argues that if you are trying to sell work done by the blind, give the cheapest rate possible, for that's the only way you will ever get the contract. After all, the NAC philosophy seems to go, who would ever want to pay top dollar (not to mention even a fair-market price) for work which is done by the blind?

There are many other assertions and innuendos which one might choose to discuss in this and other statements contained in the NAC brief—for example, an examination of the balance sheets of several agencies and workshops would cast serious doubt on their status as nonprofit, charitable, or philanthropic institutions—but probably the most laughable (but in many ways not very funny) assertion is that contained in NAC's third and final purpose of a workshop—"the psychological benefits obtained from a disabled person's participation in a work setting with his peers." It is admitted that there may be a few side benefits to going forth every day from one's home and working to produce some useful product, but honestly, NAC, there are limits as to the amount of sophistry we are reasonably willing to swallow. Indeed, what kind of psychological uplift is there in being denied the benefits of at least a guaranteed minimum wage while being forced to compete with employees in the private sector who work under union scale. Working regularly in this manner while being told in many ways that you are regarded as generally inferior is really not psychologically uplifting, no matter how congenial your colleagues on the assembly line might actually be.

And so it goes with the NAC brief and the philosophy it presents while making several falacious arguments in its desperate attempt to support the Cincinnati Association for the Blind against the blind. Yes, this is just the way it has always been with NAC. Never mind all of NAC's talk of consumerism, never mind the fact that the majority of the workers at the Cincinnati Association voted that they wanted to be represented by a labor union, none of this matters at all to NAC, for consumerism is a nice thing to talk about, but (as a NACster himself might have put it) "Let's not let it get out of hand." Apparently consumerism is all right, according to NAC, as long as the consumers don't want to change anything.

But through the Federation, we know first-hand the real meaning and the challenge of legitimate consumer involvement. The future is ours; this is the inescapably positive message of the cases in Houston and Cincinnati. To be sure there are challenges before us, yet we have the strength and the will to meet them all. Today we stand ever closer to the time when representation of workers by means of organized labor will be as commonplace in the sheltered workshops as it is now in competitive industry. This has been our goal throughout the decades of the existence of our movement, and we are keeping the faith by bringing it about.

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In Congressional hearings which began on May 14, 1980, the subcommittee on Labor Standards of the Committee on Education and Labor in the U.S. House of Representatives launched what is likely to be a full-scale and sweeping review of the sheltered workshop system as we now know it in this country. Officially described as an "over-sight" hearing, the probe was sparked primarily by continued protest from blind workers that the wages in the sheltered shops are too low to maintain even a minimal standard of living. The basis for these complaints comes from our own experience as blind people, but our position is given weight by a study released last year by the U.S. Department of Labor which reported that, during 1976, more than half of the blind persons who worked in sheltered workshops earned $1,500 or less, yet 93% of them had no opportunity to move into the competitive labor force, remaining in sheltered employment.

The case against subminimum wages grows ever stronger as we gather more data on the current status and operation of sheltered workshops. Later in this article we will reprint testimony presented at the hearings which makes our case from various perspectives. This will include the views of Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder, Democrat of Colorado, who offered a forceful statement on behalf of blind workers. Mrs. Schroeder is one who has listened to us and learned from us, and during our recent March on Washington she became committed enough to ask for an opportunity to speak out on our behalf. To articulate the viewpoint of an experienced blind shop worker we will offer the statement of Frederick C. Rockwell, a production employee at Arizona Industries for the Blind. So often we hear the charge that blind people are really happy to be paid less than the minimum wage; but this is nonsense; just ask Fred Rockwell. Finally, the official statement of the Federation will be included as it was presented by President Jernigan.

But before these statements are entered into evidence, it will be helpful to set the stage with a bit of background. In one way of looking at it, the concept is really quite simple—blind people (all blind people who work, and regardless of where they work, including those who work in sheltered workshops) ought to be paid at least the federal minimum wage, since this is a wage which the law requires for other workers as a matter of right. But oh how people try to make it so complex. At the root of it all is the concept that this class of workers (the blind) is likely to be less productive than others, and so the rationale has developed that it is somehow entirely right and proper to guarantee a minimum wage for those "ordinary" people (the ones who are not blind, of course) while holding blind workers to a rigid, yet subjectively established, standard of productivity. In other words, most workers are guaranteed the minimum wage while the blind are forced to prove they are worth it.

This is perhaps the simplest, yet most profound, fact which emerged as we listened to all of the explanations, qualifications, equivocations, and protestations which were made by the proponents of the current subminimum wage system. Subcommittee chairman, Edward P. Beard (Democrat of Rhode Island) seemed perplexed by the whole idea of it all, and repeatedly he sought in vain for a rational justification of the current law. This was Mr. Beard's first brush with the principal deacons of the sheltered workshop establishment, at least in his capacity as chairman of the House Subcommittee on Labor Standards, and he was clearly not satisfied with the explanations he received.

As the hearing began on the morning of Wednesday, May 14, the chamber (room 2257 of the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C.) was packed, front to back and wall-to-wall with interested participants and on-lookers, mostly enthusiastic Federationists. Several Washington insiders (the type who typically get to these hearings late, figuring nothing will happen in the beginning anyway) found that on this occasion they had to stand outside in the hall, for this was our day to put our views on the record, and we were there in our impressive numbers to do it.

The group which gathered was made up largely of Federationists from Maryland, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C. area, but some came from a greater distance. Ed Beck, representing the NFB of Rhode Island, took part and spoke briefly from his experience with the Rhode Island Association for the Blind (a low-paying, yet NAC accredited sheltered workshop in Providence). Fred Rockwell traveled the furthest, coming all the way from Phoenix, Arizona to Washington, D.C. to present eloquent testimony on behalf of blind shop workers. It is not easy to be the one to stand on the front lines, when virtually every incentive is to knuckle under to the well-established system, but Fred was willing to step forward, doing credit to himself (not to mention the so-called helpless class of shop workers whom he represented) with a persuasive, well-reasoned and concise presentation of his experiences and the facts as he knows them first-hand on the inside in the sheltered workshop. Ralph Sanders spoke in his capacity as President of Blind Industries and Services of Maryland. BISM, under Ralph's direction, is an agency which has openly and proudly not conformed to the traditional establishment model of a workshop, and its uniquely positive combined programs of rehabilitation and industrial employment give the lie to every statement made by the opponents of minimum wage for the blind. BISM has proved that it can be done and that an agency can survive and flourish while paying a decent wage to blind workers.

No Congressional hearing is complete without the opposition, so a few of the principal deacons of the workshop establishment were present to place their views on the record. Their arguments were not new; the primary contention seems to be that the shops just can't afford to pay a living wage. Yet this is a hard notion to swallow. What we hear from the workshops is the cry of poverty and impending doom; it reminds one of the sorry plight of the major oil producers who are constantly pleading poverty while reporting fatter profits every year.

In this connection, it is inconceivable that an agency as big as the New York Association for the Blind, cannot afford to pay the shop workers at Lighthouse Industries at least the minimum wage when that same New York Association for the Blind reports total assets in excess of $55 million. To be sure, not all of the workshop agencies are as well fixed as the New York Association, but neither are they on their way to bankruptcy court. For example, here are the 1977 net worth figures for a few of the more prominent agencies running workshops:

Cleveland Society for the Blind, $8,401,835; Clovernook Home and School for the Blind, $7,945,877; Jewish Guild for the Blind, $25,640,251; Minneapolis Society for the Blind, $2,808,489; and San Francisco Lighthouse for the Blind, $6,803,895. As for the financial holdings of a few of the other notables, the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind was worth $3,751,159 at the end of 1976. At the same time, the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind (located in Washington, D.C.) had net worth of $2,229,998 while New York City's Industrial Home for the Blind had $13,689,655. Now this is really not a picture of poverty, and in the aggregate these agencies have probably accumulated nearly half a billion dollars, yet, to hear them talk, it is just not possible to pay even a few dollars more to a blind worker in the sheltered workshop. Where are their priorities? We know the answer; it isn't very pleasant.

Then there was the argument offered up by Harold Richterman, (the so-called "Director of Rehabilitation") at National Industries for the Blind. Richterman believes strongly that blind people should stay put in their places, and to prove it he expressed bitter resentment over the necessity to come before a Congressional subcommittee to explain and to answer charges of wrong doing in the present system. Responding to questions by Subcommittee Chairman Edward Beard on the morning of May 15, Richterman assumed the posture of self-appointed spokesman for the blind by stating angrily at one point that the NFB is but a small segment of the blind population and implying that our leaders are out of touch with the needs and desires of the rank and file blind. Going further, Richterman asserted that there are several other organizations (he mentioned, to use his own words, "the American Council for the Blind" and the Blinded Veterans Association), so the Federation should certainly not be regarded as representing the views of the blind. This was puzzling to Chairman Beard, as he wondered aloud with Mr. Richterman why these organizations were not well known in the Congress as one would expect if they really existed. Putting the question directly, Mr. Beard asked, "Where are all these other organizations?" Then he followed with the explanation that in Rhode Island it is the Federation that speaks on behalf of the blind, and the Federation is known to the lawmakers; it is a part of the regular political process. Ah, indeed, Mr. Beard has repeated a question we have often asked: "Where are these other organizations, and what are they doing on behalf of the blind?" And, perhaps, Mr. Richterman was doing a bit of wondering himself, for in this hearing, as has often been the case in the past, it was the Federation who came forward to speak on behalf of blind shop workers, and the American Council (whether it is "of" or "for" the blind, we cannot say) maintained its characteristic silence, or its nonexistent presence, however one might choose to describe it.

In one sense, this Congressional hearing was but the opening event in a major federal review which is now underway concerning sheltered workshops. Pursuant to a request from the Honorable Barry Goldwater, Jr. (Republican Representative from California) and in recognition of the findings of investigations reported in the media, the United States General Accounting Office (GAO) has now entered the picture with a full-scale investigation of wage payment practices in the sheltered workshops. While the findings of this study will not be known or available until quite a bit later this year, the fact that it is being done at all has aroused ire among the deacons of the sheltered workshop establishment who seem to object to opening up their operations to the light of public scrutiny.

But, increasingly (albeit sometimes slowly) the tide is changing, and with it the times are changing, too. A new era of rights in opportunities is dawning, and in the Federation we constitute a powerful force in bringing it about. The testimony which follows gives witness to our progress, and it is reprinted in full so that Federationists throughout the country will have the arguments at hand when they are needed. The battle for the rights of blind shop workers is fully engaged, all flags are flying high, but it is not a battle to be won solely in a hearing room in Washington, it is a battle which will be won ultimately in the lighthouses and workrooms of this nation. This struggle is one which we can win, and it is more than worth the effort. For too long many of us have been treated as second-class workers in the labor force, and this treatment has diminished the opportunities for all blind persons, regardless of their station or status in life. Subminimum wages are a throw-back to an era of dependency and helplessness, but the blind are beyond all that today. No longer will we take the option of second-class and quietly accept the myth of inferiority. So with hope we go forward, knowing that right and the times are on our side. Let us not be hoodwinked or bamboozled; all you get from a subminimum wage is a poverty level existence.

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May 14, 1980

Newcomers to a Denver, Colorado center for the blind, as part of their orientation, receive an employee handbook explaining the facility. The forward of the handbook states that the sole purpose of the center is to "provide services for the blind person whose goal is gainful employment either through placement in competitive industry or in employment within the facility, whichever will serve you to your best advantage." This explicit and seemingly altruistic purpose, however, contains the implicit and underlying reason why the newcomer will not receive the fair and minimum wage for work in that center, the reason I sit before you today.

Many workshops for the blind consider themselves to be both a rehabilitation center providing services to their "clients", and a place of employment providing work to their "employees". This workshop schizophrenia results in unaccountable management at the disadvantage of the workers. Workshops for the blind should wear only one hat, that of an actual workplace, and gear the operation accordingly, which includes paying its personnel the current minimum wage.

Today, centers for the blind are mainly places where goods are produced for sale to public agencies or commercial outlets. This is different than years ago when workshops were nothing more than adult day care centers to keep the blind isolated from the rest of society. Times fortunately changed and many nonwork related activities and services are now done outside the workshop. The adult day care center evolved into a labor-intensive production facility.

Everybody but the workshop operators, it seems, noticed the evolution. Two labor groups, the Communication Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, tried to organize individual workshops, realizing the plight of the employees. Businesses and business associations, like the Office Products Manufacturers Association, recognized the potentially unfair competition they face from the workshops. These workshops are even eligible for aid from the Small Business Administration, which indicates government awareness of their business nature. The fact that we are sitting in a Labor Sub-committee hearing today also attests to that awareness.

Since the workshop for the blind is not a therapy center but rather an actual workplace, it follows that proper management techniques and efficiencies should be used, which doesn't seem to be the case. It also follows that employees should be entitled to the rights and benefits which other American workers are guaranteed, including the minimum wage, which is obviously not the case.

Much has been said on the national level suggesting managerial inefficiency, insensitivity or negligence. The contribution I wish to make on this is one of a local nature. Allow me to submit for the record the comments on the workshop for the blind in Denver made by some of its employees. Also, allow me to submit statements from the President and Vice President of the Colorado Federation of the Blind on what they see as the problem.

One questionable management practice mentioned in those comments is tying the wage scales to productivity. This is only an excuse for not paying the minimum wage and a perfect example of the self-fulfilling prophecy. If the production operation is geared to low productivity, by inefficient production space layout, outdated or broken equipment, and inadequate training, naturally the productivity and the wages, on a price-per-unit basis, will be low.

Operators claim that paying the minimum wage would put the workshop out of business and their clients on the streets. A top to bottom reorganization could cut production costs and allow the minimum wage to be paid. This is not an impossible dream. It does happen in over fifteen workshops nationwide. If these centers for the blind can pay their employees the current minimum wage, why can't the rest?

Plant efficiency can be improved only so much. That's why each component of the national workshop system should also look to attract more business. This is something I hope the Subcommittee also looks into. The Committee for the Purchase of Products and Services of the Blind and Other Severely Handicapped (forget the acronym!) should explore ways to increase business while evaluating the production methods used by the workshops. The National Industries for the Blind should also put heavier emphasis on the recruitment of new private sector business. Individual workshops could also develop their own sales representatives to promote workshop-made products. Workshop employees must realize that quality products must be made and orders must be filled on time. These are improvements that can only be made by initial changes in attitudes. The first change is crucial: regard workshop "clients" as "employees".

There are changes that Congress can make too. One is the passage of HR 3764, to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to provide that blind persons not be employed at less than the applicable minimum wage. To remove the blind from minimum wage exemption removes the outdated and discriminatory crutch workshops have been leaning on for years. It would cure the schizophrenia workshop operators have and force them to run a productive and competitive business.

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MAY 14, 1980

Mr. Chairman, I am Fred Rockwell. I am a production employee (totally blind) at Arizona Industries for the Blind (AIB), located in Phoenix. My address is 350 N. First Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona 85003.

I am not a newcomer to the industries which we call sheltered workshops. My career in this line of work started in 1963 when I entered an evaluation and training program at the Lighthouse for the Blind which is operated by the New York Association for the Blind located in New York City. Seven months later, in April of 1964, I went to work at the Binghamton Blind Work Association, Binghamton, New York, and I worked in that shop for six years. During that time I worked primarily as a sewing machine operator and chair caner with a starting wage of 90¢ per hour in 1964. By 1970, still doing the same jobs, I was being paid $1.45 per hour, an increase of 55¢ per hour over six years as I calculate it.

Early in 1970 I went to Phoenix—I heard the pay was better there. As it turned out, it didn't really matter much, but I did do a little better on the pay, for at Arizona Industries I started at $1.60 per hour, doing the same job I was doing in Binghamton—I guess my productivity got better; maybe it was a change in the air. At AIB, as in Binghamton, I operate a sewing machine, along with plenty of other jobs which I will talk about later. I think I am a good sewing machine operator, and I ought to be, since I have been doing it for 16 years.

During the current evaluation period my pay rate is $3.10 per hour. In one sense I suppose you could call it a good thing, after all, I am making the minimum wage for the first time in my life after 16 years of work, five days a week, year in and year out, but why should I have to wait 16 years just to make the minimum when I know there are sighted people, less productive than I, who are paid what I make now from the first day they walk in the plant. Next September I will again be evaluated, and they will tell me what they think my productivity actually is. After that, I don't know what I will be making—could be more, could be less—but I do know that the sighted people in our plant will not drop below what I make now; that's what I know, and I don't believe it's right.

I have come to this hearing today to speak out on behalf of blind people who work in these workshops, because I know, first-hand, what it is all about. I don't pretend to be an expert in this law or in what anybody is supposed to do to protect us—they don't do much—but I can tell you what is happening in the workshops, and that is what I have come to do. I know you will hear from all kinds of people who run these shops, and I expect that they will say that they just can't afford to pay us anymore. That is what they tell us all the time, but we don't see these managers suffering too much. I can't understand it, how is it that if we blind are so unproductive, those managers can do so well.

It is distressing to me that most blind workers are literally afraid to speak out. I understand what they feel, and I feel it a bit myself but if someone doesn't come forward, none of us will ever get ahead at all. I have been pressured and intimidated, and once I even lost my job at AIB for 16 months. This was no picnic, but I strongly opposed a legislative proposal which management supported, and as a matter of principle I refused to sign a resolution prepared by management. All of us who refused were fired—they said we were laid-off, but what they called it didn't matter, there was no work and no pay. So I know about intimidation, it is the way of life in the workshops, for the low pay we get makes most of us totally dependent, and dependence makes you vulnerable.

There are several conditions about our situation which I would like to have you consider most carefully. Prior to this hearing I talked with the other employees in our shop, and when I knew I would be coming we had a meeting of the employee's committee, where the major weaknesses of our current set-up were aired. Here are a few of our concerns.

1. The productivity system which is used to set our wages is basically unfair. As I understand it we are expected to meet production rates maintained by sighted workers for similar work. This would not be so bad, and I would not object to it at all, if we were dealing with fair comparisons. The major problem is that the contracts we get tend to be small and intermittent, meaning that we really don't get a chance to work up speed in the production line before the job is over.

As an example of this, last year, in 1979, I changed jobs at least 30 times, and rarely worked on any job for more than two to three weeks. Sometimes a job would last a couple of days, and then we would be off to something else entirely. To illustrate what I am talking about, while I am called a sewing machine operator and do that work when it is available, I am frequently assigned other tasks which include: chair caning, material folding, packaging, automatic bag sealing, bookend deburing, yarn cutting, pillowcase turning, and cutting sponges. These are the nine jobs which I normally do, but I emphasize that we rarely work them for any length of time at all. Then, too, days go by when some just wait for instructions or a new assignment, and it sure doesn't help your productivity.

2. Sighted people whose productivity is less than normal for industrial standards are still paid at least minimum wage, yet blind people with higher productivity are not. At AIB we currently have 25 blind and 7 sighted workers, thus we are just within the 75% blind, 25% sighted, ratio which I think the shop is required to maintain. 76% of the blind workers (19 employees) are paid less than $3.10 per hour and 6 blind workers are paid $3.10 or above. By contrast, all 7 of the sighted employees (regardless of their productivity) are paid at least $3.10 per hour.

Here are a few of the current figures to illustrate more graphically the sub-minimum wage program. Among our total current work force of 32 blind and sighted employees, only one worker (a blind person) makes the standard of so-called "normal" productivity and in his case it's 121% of the norm. I emphasize that this person is blind. Of the sighted workers, only three of the seven are rated above 75% of normal productivity yet, again, each makes minimum wage or more. We are often told that management cannot afford to pay us at least the minimum wage but here is an example of the type of discrimination which exists: According to data which I have obtained from our workshop, one of our sighted workers is currently rated at 53% of normal productivity while working a job where the prevailing wage rate (the rate which would most commonly be paid in competitive industry for similar work) is $3.78 per hour. Since the sighted person in question produces at a rate of only 53% of normal productivity the earned wage for that sighted worker (that is 53% of $3.78) should be a flat $2.00 per hour. However, that same sighted worker is not paid the earned wage of $2.00 per hour, no, not at all, for the law requires that sighted worker to be paid at least the minimum wage, currently $3.10 per hour, and this is exactly what is done.

Now if that same sighted worker were blind, we do not have to speculate on what would happen. In fact, the data from our workshop provides plenty of examples.

Among the current work force at AIB there are 10 blind people who have productivity ratings which are higher than 53% of normal productivity, yet six of these are still paid less than minimum wage. For instance, Worker A among this group has a productivity of 55%. Like the sighted worker in the sample used above. Worker A is working currently on a job where the prevailing wage rate is $3.78 per hour. His earned wage, taking into account his productivity at 55% of the so-called norm is thus $2.08 per hour, but the shop being a generous shop, is actually paying him $2.51 per hour. In other words, in the case of Worker A, they are subsidizing him at the rate of 43¢ per hour, while in the case of that sighted worker, the subsidy is $1.10 per hour, a subsidy of more than twice as much. And I thought this was a workshop for the blind.

Now another worker, a worker whom we will call "Worker B" has a current productivity rating of 58% of the norm. Worker B is also working a job where the prevailing wage rate is $3.78 per hour, so at this 58% of normal productivity, his earned wage is $2.19 per hour—that is 58% of $3.78. At the same time, our generous workshop is subsidizing Worker B to the tune of 82¢ an hour (a little less than twice the hourly subsidy paid to Worker A, but still 28¢ less than the hourly subsidy paid to that sighted worker whose productivity is only 53% of the norm). What is it about blindness that says we cannot be subsidized at least as much as these sighted workers? Are we not at least as much entitled to the workshop's generosity?

Of the seven sighted people in our workshop, four are paid at least $3.10 per hour, while the remaining three received wages above the federal minimum, yet not one sighted person has a productivity rating which meets 100% of the so-called norm. The highest producing sighted worker in our shop is currently rated at 90% of normal productivity, yet to illustrate further the wage discrimination which exists, that same individual is currently paid an actual wage of $3.76 per hour, identical to the prevailing wage on the job which he currently works. At the same time, as I already mentioned, one blind worker in our shop is currently rated 121% of productivity, yet (and by now you may not be surprised at this) he is paid 20¢  an hour less than the sighted worker who has only achieved 90% of the norm. This is fairness? This is equity? The Labor Department, or someone else might think so but I just don't believe it.

3. No good faith attempt (not even a minimal effort) is made to advise us of our rights (that is if we have any rights) under federal or State laws which relate to the wages paid by the workshops. For example, although I understand that the United States Department of Labor has the responsibility for wage standards, officials from that Department have never to my knowledge made any initiative to meet with or to advise the production employees as to their rights under law. As a member of the workshop employee's committee, I have been told of visits by Department of Labor representatives, but this was only informational in nature, and we were never invited to meet with these officials privately or with management present. Nor have I ever been given explanatory materials prepared by the Department of Labor, and I have no idea if such materials exist or where to get them if they do. I assure you, I am not alone in this, I have checked with my fellow employees.

4. In my experience, the workshop is not a place of rehabilitation, for to me rehabilitation means a job and a decent income to support yourself and your family. At AIB, for example, there is not even a full-time placement specialist working directly with production employees of our workshop, so as a consequence relatively few move into competitive industry. In my own case, I have been running a sewing machine and doing the other jobs that I mentioned, and I have been at this for almost 16 years (more than a decade and a half, not to mention my entire working life), but not once has any initiative been made on my behalf even to suggest that there might be a possibility for employment outside of AIB.

Now it may be that my work experience is simply not what employers outside the workshops are willing to buy, for example I don't know how many opportunities there are to sew pillow cases full-time in Phoenix, but if the jobs aren't there, how can our work be called rehabilitation, for what has it prepared us to do? Our training is simply not relevant to the job market. We know it, management knows it, but it is still that way and there is nothing the employees can do to change it. This is not rehabilitation, it is work, and we should be paid for it.

Mr. Chairman, these are the concerns which I, along with the members of our employee committee have expressed to the management of AIB, and they are the concerns which, on behalf of blind workers, I now express to you. How much longer will this situation be allowed to exist; that is the question I would like to ask. For a long time we have waited for change; I think we have waited too long. As we talked about this at AIB, the feeling which I heard expressed over and over again was summed up by one of the employees who said to me (and this is the best I can do to quote his words) "You know, there is really no change—I don't believe America works for us, but I know we work for America." For my own part, I don't know too much about how public policy is determined, and I am not at all experienced in this legislative process, but I do know that despite what we perceive as gross injustice, nothing, literally nothing, is being done on our behalf.

Now, I appreciate the fact that this sub-committee is holding hearings—this might be an important step—but we don't need talk or further study; we need better pay or better jobs, and we need them now. The sad part of it is that I could have said the same thing a year ago, or two, or even a decade ago, and yet nothing has really changed our lives today. Will it be the same for us tomorrow? Will there be talk, concern, even compassion, or will we actually have more money for better jobs in order to feed ourselves, to clothe ourselves, and to enjoy the good life which we are supposed to have in this country. What will our future be, I cannot tell, but I feel that you will have something to say about it, and I can only hope that you will make the only fair decision for better pay through at least the minimum wage. This is what our workers would have said, had the others been here to join me in front of you today.

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MAY 14, 1980

Mr. Chairman, my name is Kenneth Jernigan; I am President of the National Federation of the Blind. My address is 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230.

I am testifying this morning to support the proposition that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) should be changed so that blind people working for employers (including sheltered workshops) who are subject to the Act will not be paid less than the federal minimum wage. The exemption authorized by Section 14(c) is no longer (if it ever was at all) justified. The law unfairly discriminates by setting up a class of workers who are blind or handicapped and then forcing the members of this class to justify every penny of their paychecks by means of productivity ratings while working under conditions and with equipment over which they have no control. By contrast, a minimum hourly wage (required under Section 6 of the Act) provides a modest level of protection for workers who are not part of this class, and this wage is available to these workers as a matter of right. The present law breeds exploitation, and there are plenty of examples of abuse. This will be my testimony, but first some preliminary and relevant remarks.

I come before you as a representative of blind people, elected by blind people. The National Federation of the Blind is the vehicle for collective decision making by the blind, and through the Federation we are able to establish policy and to speak for ourselves. The agencies which serve the blind and the workshops which employ the blind have often assumed the status of self-appointed spokesman for the blind, so you should be alert to the distinction between the blind themselves on the one hand and the agencies or workshops on the other. Let there be no confusion between the respective positions of labor and management, for no matter how much management (that is, the agencies and the workshops) says it knows about our abilities, we know best our strengths and our limits—we know what it is to be blind, and we know how to compete when we are given a fair chance to do so.

Our first-hand experience as blind people who work successfully in virtually all professions, trades, and callings tells us a great deal about blindness and its effect (or lack of effect) on productivity in the labor force, but also many of us have had substantial experience with management. For example, I directed all of the adult programs for blind persons in the State of Iowa for 20 years, from 1958 to 1978. I know something, therefore, about how you rehabilitate blind people, what the problems are, the potentials, and the pitfalls in program and philosophy. Without wanting to sound boastful, I would say that the placement record (moving individuals into competitive employment) was among the best, nationwide, with the emphasis on opening new careers never thought possible for the blind. We received a citation from the President of the United States, but most important, the Iowa experience is a ringing declaration that the old myths and misconceptions about the helpless and incompetent blind are no longer to be accepted in modern society, even though they are still found in many, if not most, of the well-established and well-funded institutions.

Among the most monstrous misconceptions ever perpetrated upon the blind is the myth of diminished productivity. This myth is the basis for the FLSA exemption, but it is also a principal tenet of an elaborate network of agencies, societies, and associations (even the so-called "lighthouses") which purport to help the blind while paying them the lowest possible wages. Many of these institutions operate under the guise of public charity, raising millions upon millions of dollars, and all for the benefit of the blind, or so we are told by their representatives. This network of intertwining organizations and charities is not a small-time operation. Using data from Internal Revenue Service reports and other documents which are publicly available we estimate reliably that the aggregate financial holdings of these institutions approaches 1/2 billion dollars; yet last year (the fiscal year ending September 30, 1979) the average blind worker performing direct labor in workshops affiliated with National Industries for the Blind (NIB) was paid a meager $5,504. At the same time, according to a 1979 report released by the U.S. Department of Labor half of the blind workers in sheltered workshops are actually earning less than $1,500 annually.

Now there are blind people and leaders among the blind who have come forward to challenge the premises and practices of several decades. It is never easy to reform an institutionalized system, especially when those in positions of power in the system perceive that matters of money and prestige are at stake. Even so, we have decided to come forward to raise legitimate questions and to work for more equitable arrangements on behalf of all blind people, no matter the personal price to be paid. I would like to say that the times are exciting, but this is not exactly the most appropriate or complete description of my thoughts.

As the principal leader of the organized blind movement in this country, I think I know something of how our nation's foremost civil rights advocates have suffered by means of pressure and attempts at intimidation whenever they have zeroed in on the age-old problems of minorities. I have learned firsthand, for instance, about how vicious and unfounded personal attacks can be used against those who dare to be outspoken. In my own case I have weathered many of these attacks, and I fully expect that there are many more to come. This hearing will, itself, call forth another volley of abuse. Even a few days ago (in fact, on May 5 in San Diego, California, at a meeting sponsored by National Industries for the Blind, to be exact) I am informed that threats were leveled at me by Joseph Larkin (Executive Director of the Industrial Home for the Blind and Chairman of the General Council of Workshops for the Blind) and Austin Scott (Executive Director of the Dallas County Association for the Blind and a member of the Executive Committee of the General Council). These are people of power and influence in the workshop system; they direct wealthy agencies, and their counterparts who manage workshops throughout the country will tend to follow their lead.

Ralph Sanders, President of Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, has reported to me that, at the meeting in question, Messers. Larkin and Scott spoke directly to him in tones of hatred, angrily denouncing me and my activities as President of the National Federation of the Blind. According to their statements, Messers. Larkin and Scott (presumably with the cooperation and assistance of the heads of several other agencies) intend (and I emphasize, as Mr. Larkin did, the word "intend") to see to it that I am ruined both personally and professionally within the next two years. There was, as I gather it, no equivocation whatsoever about the objective or the time table. The plan is ready to go and most likely already underway. For one thing, Mr. Larkin disclosed that an effort is being made to discredit me and the National Federation of the Blind with officials of the State of New York in order to prevent our organization from conducting lawful and legitimate fundraising activities within the borders of that State. Other attacks will be leveled in the form of adverse publicity concerning me and our movement. I assume that charges will be made that I stole money or was in some other fashion a crook during the time that I directed the State programs in Iowa. This would not be the first time that we have heard such charges, but they are as false and malicious today as the first time they were leveled. The recent Federal audit of the Iowa programs proves the truth of what I am saying conclusively. Beyond this, I have no way of predicting the full dimensions of the smear campaign which Messers. Larkin and Scott, along with their colleagues in the workshops, have vowed they will commence. Mr. Sanders will be testifying later in this hearing, and he can verify what was said to him.

This is but one incident, although I do not regard it as minor. If it reveals nothing else, it shows the character and hidden purpose of the principal leaders who want to keep things as they have always been in the workshops where they are thoroughly accustomed to dominating the blind, regardless of our constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech and our freedom to assemble and peaceably bring grievances before the agencies of government and the Congress. I do not doubt for one minute that plans are afoot to ruin me personally and to destroy our movement as a viable force on behalf of equal rights of the blind. My associates in the Federation and I have been told independently by two lawyers here in Washington that each was approached by sources representing the interests of the workshops and asked to carry out a campaign of lobbying and quite possibly litigation against me personally. According to these gentlemen the effort was apparently being spearheaded by a so-called accrediting group based in New York City. This organization, the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC), approves shops which pay the lowest wages, have the most distressed working conditions, and refuse to allow collective bargaining. Under the circumstances both gentlemen said that they declined the offers which were made to them individually and separately, and both reported the incidents to us.

Of course, it isn't pleasant for me personally to be the subject of so much attention, although I believe I am fully capable of defending myself and our movement, but the greater significance rests with the implications for all blind people and particularly those who must work everyday in the workshops. If threats, pressures, intimidation, or maybe even attempts at outright personal and financial ruin can be used to try to "bring me into line," and "to cause me to behave," consider what it must be like for the blind people who are in the most vulnerable spots, for they depend on their meager earnings in the workshops just to feed and clothe themselves and to try to share in supporting their own families. I speak from my own experience; there is nothing more cruel than to be stripped of personal independence and even the will to speak. I know people who wanted desperately to come just to observe this hearing today, but they did not come, and they are not here because they were afraid that someone would see them and report back as to their whereabouts. Other workers told me they want to testify before a committee and to tell of their own experiences, but not in public, only in secret; they were afraid of the consequences otherwise. I tell you there is fear in the workshops, real fear, for management holds all of the cards—there is no union, no guaranteed wage, no protection whatsoever except the benevolent spirit of the shopkeeper, if that exists at all.

This is not the first time in our history that industrial workers have been subjected to intimidation through overt campaigns designed to put them in their places; in fact, much of our labor legislation has been written to prevent such abuses. The problem is that, despite our full entitlement to the rights of citizens in this country, blind workers still remain a separate class in the labor force, a group presumed to be less productive and, therefore, (or so the reasoning goes) less entitled to the reasonable protections which all other workers are granted under law. It is thought that management of industries which employ blind labor is surely possessed of benevolent spirit—after all, who would actually steal from the blind—but alas the workshop keepers have begun to show their true character and hidden motives. We're not really dealing in charity; let's face it. The rules of the game must now be changed, and there must be a new realization that blind people, regardless of employment by a sheltered workshop, are entitled to certain basic human rights, including a decent wage for a day's work. Mr. Chairman, this is why I am here—to discuss this realization and to consider what must be done to guarantee and to protect these blind workers and their rights.

I note that these proceedings are characterized as over-sight hearings, although there is also before the subcommittee a specific legislative proposal (HR 3764) introduced by Representative Phillip Burton of California. Mr. Burton's bill amends Section 14(c) of the FLSA by removing the Secretary of Labor's authority to permit exemption from the minimum wage in the case of blind or visually-impaired workers. We support HR 3764, and I urge the sub-committee to report it favorably. The minimum wage is the most workable solution to end exploitation of blind workers; it may not be the perfect answer, but it is far better than the arrangements which now exist under present law.

There is a growing body of evidence to show that fallacies, half truths, and downright falsehoods have been used to justify the minimum wage exemption. In the following analysis I will explore these in some detail.

1. It is said that blind workers on subminimum wages are being rehabilitated, and those who say this leave the intentional implication that the result will be placement in competitive employment. Here are the facts. Rehabilitation and competitive job placement can only be described as secondary, not primary, functions of sheltered workshops, and in most circumstances there is no bona fide rehabilitation effort at all.

Figures released by National Industries for the Blind show the real emphasis of workshops. For example, during the year ending September 30, 1979, only 403 legally blind workers (7.5% of the NIB system work force, which for the same period numbered 5,350) were moved into jobs outside the workshops. We know that many got these jobs on their own initiative; the workshop had nothing to do with it. But here's the interesting comparison—at the same time that only 403 blind people were placed in competitive employment, the workers in the NIB associated shops produced goods and services totaling $127,267,416 in gross sales—$46,237,928 was commercial sales, $7,799,310 in sales to military exchanges and commissaries, but the federal government bought the most, with total sales of $63,606,925. The data tells the story-there is very little rehabilitation and a whole lot of business and industrial activity. Among the blind, we call this "work" not rehabilitation.

Recent decisions of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) have held that workshops for the blind are substantially engaged in business activity, not rehabilitation. These findings apply specifically to the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and the Lighthouse for the Blind of Houston, but the implications are far more general. Historically, many of the institutions which operate sheltered workshops have covered their business activities with a veil of "social services" which they allege they provide to blind workers and to others. Under this scheme the workshop is described as one of the "services," and the people who work there are called "clients." But the NLRB has now begun to chip away at this facade, and behind it all, the Board has found a roaring amount of business.

In the Houston case the Board took special notice of the scope of industrial activity, reviewing in detail the productive enterprise which is actually underway. For instance, during 1977 the Industrial Division of the Lighthouse manufactured 40,539,744 felt-tipped pens, 250,000 mops, and 300,000 brushes. In addition it produced 145,000 gallons of disinfectant and 30,000 gallons of detergents. Subcontract work included assembling fishing rod holders, performing grease check assembly work, and filling notebook binders with inserts. Commenting on this activity, the Board concluded: "The production figures noted above, including the manufacture of 40 million pens and various other items, indicates to us that, contrary to its assertions, the Employer's substantial production and distribution of items by its Industrial Division attest to the commercial nature of the Employer's operations. Further, it is clear that the Employer endeavors to increase its manufacturing output, broaden its markets, and essentially operates as would a private employer. For these reasons we find no basis for exercising our discretion to decline jurisdiction, but rather conclude that it will effectuate the purposes of the Act to assert jurisdiction over the Employer." Similar findings were made two years ago with respect to the Cincinnati Association for the Blind, and now both shops (having refused to bargain with their workers in good faith) find themselves the subjects of unfair labor practice charges brought by the Board and pending in Federal courts.

2. It is said that the productivity base system used under Section 14(c) is fair to workers and that it is more fair than the minimum wage would be. Here are the facts. Measures of speed and performance ratings do not result in a complete or even accurate picture of worker productivity. Exactly how productive a worker or a work force will be depends more specifically on several factors which are exclusively within the hands of management. A few of the more common conditions which have been found to limit productivity in sheltered workshops are: (1) poor job lay-out resulting in a lot of wasted movement and excessive material handling; (2) the lack of appropriate jigs and fixtures—for example, counting the pieces instead of using a jig or weighing the pieces with a scale; (3) deliberate work-stretching by the workshop during periods when contracts are slow; (4) job designs that do not allow production employees to work to their capacity—for example, assembly lines slowed down to the lowest common denominator; and (5) boring, repetitive work such as counting plastic forks and spoons. This list is not necessarily complete, but it substantiates the point that productivity is largely dependent on what management does, or conversely, on what management fails to do; hence it is not fair to place the burden solely on production employees who are powerless to control the vagaries of management.

Equally unfair is the establishment of "normal" productivity rates using the prevailing standards for similar work in similar industry as a base. This is not equitable since studies show that sheltered workshop work has little resemblance or parallel to the tasks which can be found commonly in open industry, and even where there are similarities you will find marked differences in production methods—for example, sheltered workshops tend to be labor intensive where more mechanized production is used in the competitive labor force. Then, too, workers in sheltered employment are more commonly the victims of small contracts and intermittent work, which means that they are placed at a disadvantage since there is barely time to work out the bugs in the production line before the project is over. These industries are generally not specialized, yet their productivity standards are based on the prevailing rates in plants which are.

3. It is said that the workshops cannot afford to guarantee blind workers the minimum wage, so many would close, abandoning the blind to walk the streets. Here are the facts. If we accept the figures of NIB, the average hourly wage was $3.24 last year, $.34 per hour above the minimum wage. More than half of the blind workers earned the minimum wage or more. This suggests that the impact of a mandatory minimum wage would not have dire consequences for the workshops, while it would certainly benefit those blind workers who would receive increases in salary. In hearings conducted by the Department of Labor, Claude Whitehead, Coordinator, Training and Employment Services Policy Analysis at HEW, estimated that the national cost for minimum wage to blind workers would be about $9,000,000.

Surveys of balance sheets for several agencies which operate workshops show sufficient capital is available. The Industrial Home for the Blind (IHB) which operates three sheltered plants in the New York City area reported net worth of $13,689,655 at the end of 1976. In 1978 IHB produced revenue of $3,754,827 from its sales activities yet blind workers were only paid $360,000, less than 10% for their labors. In 1977, the Jewish Guild for the Blind, also operating workshops in New York City, had excess income over expenses of nearly one million dollars, which brought the organization's net worth to $25,640,251 at the beginning of 1978. The New York Association for the Blind, probably the largest, started 1977 with a shabby $55,264,654 in net worth, but by the end of the year there had been an increase of $2,156,574.

But in case you think that New York is getting fat while the rest of us are starving, here are a few other figures from a random sample of agencies around the country. San Francisco Lighthouse, already worth $6,354,747, ended 1977 with an increase of $449,148. This agency has recently gone to minimum wage for all blind workers. Here in Washington, the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind was worth $2,229,998 as it started 1977, and this was up from $1,662,507 at the beginning of the previous year. In Cincinnati, the Clovernook Home and School for the Blind (which also operates a sheltered workshop) boosted its net worth by $244,534 during 1977 reaching a total of $7,945,877 at the end of that year.

This is hardly a picture of poverty, but to hear the keepers of the workshops, they are lucky just to keep their agencies afloat. To be sure there are some who do not mirror these increases, just as is the case in the competitive business market, but a random sample check of fund balance sheets from 36 workshops (1/3 of the NIB system) shows that 77% of them had excess income over expenses during 1977.

These are the actual figures contained in official reports filed with the Internal Revenue Service and other authorities. No one should be fooled by the typical accounting techniques which are used to hide workshop income. The scheme works like this. Workshops are almost always part of larger agencies—sharing heat, light, and some personnel. The question is how much is shared, and how much of the common load the workshop is forced to carry? Then, too, workshop proceeds are funneled off for social services (not necessarily provided to the workers) rather than being distributed as wages to the production force. It is thus a myth that workshops cannot afford minimum wage. Adjustments would be necessary for some, no question, but the means to finance better wages do exist—the data tells the story.

4. It is said that there are few sources of revenue for workshops, making it impossible to withstand increased labor costs. Here are the facts. The workshops are so-called charities, not subject to federal or State corporate taxes. This, itself, is a whopping subsidy. One third of the workshops in the NIB system are actually units of State government, so, of course, while not paying corporate income taxes, they also have State appropriated dollars as an advantage.

Workshop keepers do not like to talk about the many sources of income available to meet their salaries and operating expenses. In addition to the above there are donations from civic organizations and the public, fees for services paid by public and private agencies who make referrals to the workshops, expansion and improvement project grants, grants for purchasing land and constructing buildings, staffing grants. United Fund appropriations, block grants provided by State agencies, and in some States there are also wage subsidies.

Not to be overlooked, of course, is the income produced by the workshops' sale of goods and services, and with respect to this source, the type of work done is an important factor. According to a sheltered workshop study conducted for the Rehabilitation Services Administration by Greenleigh Associates and reported in 1975, workshops for the blind have been outstanding as income producing industries due to an emphasis on prime manufacturing as opposed to subcontract type work. The study concludes that "subcontracting appears to be the least effective way to generate income for wages and to meet other production costs. It offers a narrow range of job tasks that require less skill and higher ratios of clients to supervisors. Overhead costs are lower, so are business revenues." The study also notes that in workshops for the blind, where the principal work base is the manufacture of goods for sale (prime manufacturing) the mean wages exceed the average for all other workshops. The conclusion is that income from business activity will be sufficient to support higher wages if management does its part to be selective and competent in its contracting. This and the active use of the other sources of income will produce sufficient revenues.

5. It is said that blind workers do not want to earn minimum wage because they will lose entitlement to public benefits. Here are the facts. Blind workers whose wages are limited will usually be entitled to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) checks each month. Although it is presently illegal for workshops to limit wages deliberately to prevent the loss of income to workers from any other sources, most shops do so as a regular course of conduct, disregarding the fact that this practice denies many blind workers the income and benefits to which they are actually entitled.

The conditions which govern the eligibility of blind persons for SSI and SSDI benefits are in many ways unique, and especially so with respect to work incentives. Under SSI, for example, blind recipients are entitled to deduct from their gross wages any expenses which are involved in producing their earnings. These may include federal. State and local income taxes, PICA taxes, transportation to and from work, meals away from home during working hours, union dues, retirement fund contributions, cost of special supplies and aids necessary for a blind person to perform the work, and the cost of instruction in special techniques such as the use of a long cane and for learning to read Braille. Under SSI, it is also true that the blind are not subjected to the "substantial gainful activity test," which severely limits the earnings of other disabled recipients, denying them benefits when their earnings exceed $280 per month. As a result of these provisions, many blind people are able to earn $600 or even $700 per month and keep all or a major portion of their SSI. Yet, an employee working full-time at the minimum wage during 1980 will earn $537 per month, substantially less than a blind person is permitted to keep while still receiving SSI. The SSDI requirements are somewhat different, but blind people are still permitted to earn substantially more than persons with other disabilities while still retaining cash benefits.

In a very real sense, however, all of this misses an essential point. The blind person must have the final choice of whether to work or to live on welfare; the purpose for subminimum wages has never been to allow the blind to keep their assistance checks. Workshops and industry must come to realize that assistance to the blind offered by the federal government cannot be used as an excuse for failing to pay a living wage. Public assistance and social security are intended to help the blind; these benefits were not intended as a subsidy for industry. So, pay the blind the minimum wage, and let the blind make the choice either to work or to live on welfare. This is a choice which is open to all, and it should be open to the blind as well.

6. It is said that the present arrangement under Section 14(c) which allows the Secretary of Labor to issue different categories of exemption certificates is preferable to an inflexible minimum wage. Here are the facts. Flexible and even whimsical standards are at the heart of the problem with current law.

The system of certification which exists is open to abuse, and it has been abused in a relatively high percentage of instances. The law and regulations are confusing and cumbersome. How can a blind worker have any confidence that he or she is receiving what the law allows? First there are over-all shop certificates, then there are individual certificates, and added to it there are work activity centers. There are special minimums for workshops and there are special minimums for individuals; only a lawyer or an accountant (or perhaps a federal bureaucrat) can determine how all of these relate and should be applied in any particular case, but the uninformed workers simply do not have enough data to do this. They are victims of productivity ratings, time studies, and production standards while using outmoded methods and broken down equipment over which they have no control. Only the benevolent keeper of a lighthouse would favor such an unfair arrangement.

Mary Jane Risch, Compliance Specialist for the Wage and Hour Division for the U.S. Department of Labor, confirms that confusion breeds violation. She says in a memorandum to Claude Whitehead at HEW:

Last week I made a routine technical assistance visit to a WAC (Work Activities Center). The clients in that WAC work only two days per week. There were only two jobs in the shop. On one job the clients were not being paid anything at all (a serious violation) and on the other job they were paid on a "piece rate" basis where the workshop had never performed time studies to establish what the piece rate should be (also a serious violation). They had also lost copies of the time studies performed on their previous silk-screening job (another violation). They did keep an accurate record of the hours worked by the clients.

Whitehead, himself, verifies the problem posed by the complexities of present law, saying, in a 1978 letter to this subcommittee:

In our 1976 study, we found that more than one-fifth of the clients classified as regular employees were being paid illegally at less than the minimum rate specified in the FLSA. This may have been caused by lack of understanding of FLSA by the workshop administrators and/or may have resulted from lack of compliance enforcement by DOL (currently DOL investigates only 3 percent of the workshops annually). Equally important, DOL compliance investigators are not properly trained to investigate this unique population of employees.

7. It is said that blind people should not be treated differently from other handicapped people, so that Section 14(c) exemption should remain in effect for all. Here are the facts. The Greenleigh study of sheltered workshops (mentioned earlier) and other reports released in 1977 and 1979 by the U.S. Department of Labor show that wages for blind shopworkers are significantly higher than for other disabilities. Several workshops for the blind are not even certificated for subminimum wages, and even when they are, the majority of workers earn at or above the minimum wage. NIB's data tells us every year that the average wage for blind shopworkers exceeds the minimum wage.

This data suggests that there is merit in applying the minimum wage standard where blind workers are concerned. We have often said that there is nothing about blindness which imposes such a degree of physical incapacity that a person cannot meet and maintain acceptable productivity standards in industry. The problem, where there is one, is more often related to inefficiencies of management and lack of training for the production workers. Indeed, Congress may well face some different choices with respect to establishing appropriate wage protection for workers with handicaps other than blindness, but this fact should not be used as a reason for holding back on enactment of protective legislation for the benefit of the productive blind. In reality the blind have already singled themselves out for special consideration, and now it is time for our laws to catch up.

8. In contrast to all that has been said, no one has said that the blind should not be paid at least the minimum wage if they work in competitive industry, even though here, too, there is authority for subminimum wages. Here are the facts. It is estimated that approximately 900 blind persons are working on subminimum wage certificates in industry outside the sheltered workshops, but exactly how many there are, not even the Department of Labor can tell you for sure. Probably there is so little response from competitive industry, because the minimum wage has long since become accepted policy in that sector of our nation's work force. Certainly with so few numbers likely to be involved in a required minimum wage, the impact on competitive industry would not impose a significant burden, and any increases in labor costs could be absorbed. Apparently the representatives of industry agree, or you can bet that they would be here to tell you why it couldn't be done.

Mr. Chairman, as a concluding statement, I think it is fair to say that this analysis reveals several major and fatal flaws in the assumptions and practices surrounding certification of blind workers for subminimum wages under Section 14(c). Contrary to the assertions of the keepers of the workshops, subminimum wages are not an advantage; let's face it. After all, there is hardly a stampede among blind people to achieve what we are led to believe is a coveted state of financial security. Carried to its logical extreme, the notion that we are better off to keep our subminimum wages is utterly ridiculous. We cannot buy the principle which asserts that the more you make the worse off you are, while the less you earn the better you feel, yet this is the sophistry which we are being asked to swallow. Who could have ever thought that the Rockefellers would be so poor in their wealth while the blind so rich in their poverty.

Mr. Chairman, let us not be fooled or lulled to sleep by the sympathetic pleas of the keepers of these workshops. Protecting the income of the blind through guaranteeing at least the minimum wage is a policy which merits this subcommittee's affirmative vote, for if passed it would bring equity to the wages of all blind workers in the country. The blind are anxious for this, and we have waited a long time for the Congress to act on our behalf. Any time this subject is considered there will of course be outcries from management and you can expect the charge that Congress is imposing yet another handicap on the handicapped. But the fact is that minimum wage for the blind is really not impossible to afford; the key factors are in the hands of management, not the workers. Today there are several workshops for the blind which demonstrate that efficient management, a suitable production line, and a steady flow of contracts will easily yield an income to pay everyone at least the minimum wage and even more. The demonstrations of success exist, all we are asking is that at least they be recognized in order to provide the blind workers their fair share of income in the work force. Mr. Chairman, it can be done, it should be our objective, and be assured we will work with you toward that end.

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(Editor's note: On April 26, 1980, Peg Frazee was married to John Halverson in Washington, D.C. Peg has been an active member of our Illinois affiliate for several years. The following article appeared in the May/June, 1980 issue of In the Mainstream, a publication of Mainstream, Inc. of Washington, D.C. The article is reprinted by permission.)

With resume in hand, Peg Frazee arrived in Washington, D.C. last October and began her job hunt.

In a city where efficient typists are at a premium, Frazee expected few problems in obtaining a word processing job. After all, she had four years experience with Sears, Roebuck in Chicago under her belt. Once in the nation's capital, Frazee began the traditional job hunt—scouring newspaper employment sections, completing government employment tests and knocking on doors. She covered a lot of ground between October 1979 and March 1980.

Interviewers generally agreed she had strong clerical skills and an impressive work record, yet they seemed skeptical that a blind woman could really do the job. "We'd love to hire you but . . . ," they said, or "We'll keep your resume on file," or "We still have a lot of applicants to interview." The same question always came up: "How can you type and proofread your work?"

With each interview, Frazee responded more wearily, "Good typists shouldn't need to look at their typing and besides you generally feel a mistake. In any case, my supervisor need only tell me the line and space and I can correct any mistakes from there. You don't need to see to type."

In March, Frazee landed a job as secretary-typist for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Here she is a word processor responsible for typing assignments, maintaining correspondence files and answering phones. While working at Sears, she was able to develop her own techniques for tasks such as proofreading and filing. At FTC, she has the same freedom.

FTC will soon train Frazee on a new IBM audio typing unit that allows vision-impaired typists to proofread without assistance. Frazee currently uses another adaptive device—a light probe that allows her to monitor the lighted switchplate on her telephone.

While waiting for the audio typing unit, Frazee uses her own alternative techniques. She labels files and the message board in braille. She is able to sense many typing errors and correct them by playing back the processing machine's electronic memory cards. Frazee says that, while the new device will make her job easier, she is perfectly comfortable with the methods she currently uses.

Frazee was hired under the FTC's selective placement program. The FTC, like other federal agencies, provides an alternative to competitive placement for handicapped individuals and actively seeks job applications from the disabled community. One placement source they use is the National Federation of the Blind's Job Opportunities Program (JOB). It was through JOB that Frazee and the FTC found each other.

Frazee was immediately impressed by the agency's matter-of-fact assumption that she could do the job. She says that FTC has "one of the best federal selective placement programs."

Frazee does not make a big deal about her blindness. "That's what I am, blind," she says. "That's one of my characteristics just like my blond hair and blue eyes."

Around the time of World War II and in the years immediately following, it was a common medical procedure to feed extra oxygen to premature infants. Later it was discovered that this practice could cause Retrolental Fibroplasia, a disorder which damages the optic nerve and can impair vision. In Frazee's case, it caused total blindness.

The only girl of five children, Frazee grew up as a tomboy, wrestling, treeclimbing and competing with her brothers. Her family made an early decision that Frazee would not be sheltered. At a special school for blind children, she acquired the mobility skills she needed to be independent. Frazee says that, in today's era of educational mainstreaming, she sees advantages to attending public school, but she does not regret her experience in a special institution. She does wish that she had been given the chance to deal with able-bodied children's attitudes at an earlier age.

After graduating from school, Frazee says she was not prepared for the prejudices she faced. "I had to adjust to the attitudes of society," she says. "It did not occur to me that they would discriminate against me. But I learned fast."

Asked about her interests, Frazee immediately points to her affiliation with the National Federation of the Blind, stressing the "of." Frazee says that NFB helped her to understand that many upsetting experiences were clear cases of prejudice. That helped her channel her anger into securing her rights.

Frazee says she faces a second attitudinal barrier—the assumption that she goes by the name Peggy, a name that reminds her of pigtails and braces. Her name, she insists, is Peg.

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(Editor's note: Tom Mills is the new President of the NFB of Alabama, having succeeded the Honorable Euclid Rains who also remains active as a leader in our Alabama affiliate while carrying out his duties in the state legislature.)

Discarded shirts and dresses, unwanted dolls, broken skates, incomplete games, and a variety of other used merchandise clutter the shelves of Flea-Market Junction. Eye-catching signs beckon shoppers to make a purchase thus brightening the day of some poor blind person somewhere. Energetic music and a nearby liquor store create a carnival atmosphere. People are smiling, smiling, smiling perhaps from a few too many drinks next door or maybe they feel good because by purchasing something, they have truly helped the blind, the second-class citizens who cannot help themselves.

Nothing is too good nor too used for the blind or so it seems. Flea-Market Junction, located in a bustling Birmingham shopping center, expects to earn sizable profits. For a meager percentage, a charity desperate for money sells the store operator the right to use its name. Callers plead with people over the telephone to give discarded items as a gift to help the blind.

And believe it or not, this is another of those so-called "thrift store" operations which have become a cornerstone of the questionable fundraising practices of the American Council of the Blind. Monitor readers will remember the "Kansas Caper" which has evolved into a major legal entanglement for the Council and its newest fundraising corporation, American Council of the Blind Enterprises and Services (ACBES). A few months back the Council's "thrift store" program surfaced in Birmingham, Alabama, following along the lines of the Kansas model, using a storefront operation as the primary sales outlet while maintaining a telephone "boiler room" type operation to secure donations of used merchandise from the public. The Birmingham "thrift store" operation was handled as far as can be determined through an arrangement between ACBES and the owners of Flea-Market Junction. Thus, by soliciting merchandise from the public through the use of one corporation while selling it back to the public by means of another, accountability is defused as audit trails are blurred and the financial transactions become evermore complex and secretive.

Lurking in the shadow of this network of allegedly charitable fundraising corporations is the world of Durward K. McDaniel, who seems to be the principal architect of the scheme. At last count there were about a dozen of these "thrift store" operations, yet no one will say for sure how much is "contributed" by the public, or how much of the contributed dollar ever touches the lives of needy blind people.

Because of their particular approach, the ACB "thrift stores" convey a stereotyped image of the helpless blind, so the National Federation of the Blind of Alabama vowed to stop this atrocity which, of course, does not meet acceptable standards of fundraising. The blind of Alabama were simply not willing to allow profit seekers to become wealthy while riding on our backs. How many times has the ACB insisted that the Federation abide by commonly accepted rules of ethics? But are the ACB actions beyond question and reproach? We think not.

Thus, on February 23, 1980, Federationists made their way to Flea-Market Junction determined to prevent this exploitation of the blind through the grand opening of another ACB "thrift store." Oh, what a bustle and what stirring—the picture of charity and pity, the scene was quite complete—but things changed as we arrived and promptly stated our business. We were greeted by a somewhat irate and very confused cashier who blurted warnings of dire consequences should Federationists cause any problems for the store. The manager, a Mr. Ronald Giles, was literally beside himself with confusion mixed with rage. After all, he wanted no part of any problems, he was just trying to open his flea market store, and there we were threatening to throw cold water on the whole operation by protesting publicly at this much touted and well advertised grand opening. Just imagine Mr. Giles' consternation, there we were, Federationists on the barricades, and we were not about to go quietly or to be ignored.

Hoping somehow to quell the disturbance, Giles agreed to meet and negotiate with us in the parking lot. Milling about were a few blind people, claiming to be members of the ACB, but they were unable to provide any defense whatsoever for this questionable fundraising approach as it is currently practiced by their organization. After several hours of negotiations, the wife of the storekeeper began to get the jitters, and urged her husband to cancel the ACB contract; seeing the handwriting on the wall, Giles agreed. Thus, on the very day it began, the brief and stormy existence of Alabama's first, only, and last ACB "thrift store" was abruptly terminated to the benefit and resounding joy of the blind people in our state. During the following week blind Alabamians heard rumors including talk of lawsuits, and other dire threats from the ACB, but we have no fear, for from that organization, we knew this was only talk. Moreover, once again we have no "thrift store" in Alabama, and we are proud that we are free from this indignity.

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Do we, the blind, have good reason to be optimistic about our future? Do more and more blind people now insist upon doing their own thinking and speaking, independent of the ever-present influences of the professionals? My guest of the other evening definitely felt that this is so.

"I feel that our growth over the past few years speaks for itself," he said. "It is indicated in our daily mail and in the surge of interest in our organization among blind people throughout the country. It is also substantiated by the accelerated participation by the blind in our many supportive activities. We are truly encouraged."

I echo these sentiments at this time simply because they are very similar to those I have heard from other sources. As one who struggled for opportunity in education and gainful employment back in the thirties and forties in a world of prejudice and false conceptions about blindness, let me say this to every single one of you Federationists: Your spirit, your determination, and your continued accomplishments are like the comforting rays of a warm winter sun. You have come a long, long way by your very own efforts. In fact, for a people who for years have been characterized by the professional fundraisers as helpless, almost totally dependent, and in dire need of custodial care, you are staging a very convincing demonstration. By your dedication to the cause and your unrelenting perseverance, you are making it evident, beyond a doubt, that as you progress, united in thought and action, so will the well-being of those for whom you speak and act.

To a blind person obliged to be content with mere acceptance and token employment for years, your initiative is truly refreshing and inspiring. What a real pleasure it is to think of what it will all mean in the lives of those who are to follow. You are to be commended.

Do you young Federationists have any inkling at all of the problems facing a blind person back in the thirties and forties, even in these United States? Let me take you back in retrospect. It is much less painful that way. For most of us, those who were denied the privilege of education beyond high school because of lack of financial resources, the immediate problem was how to survive and how to maintain self-respect. If this sounds incredible to some of you, let me assure you that those of us who so nonchalantly passed through the gates of the various schools for the blind throughout the country into a world ill-prepared to receive us and totally unaware of our situation, found the sudden transformation to be very, very real. Our reception was one of complete frustration. To compound our difficulties even further, the awful truth of the matter was that we had next to nothing to offer. Is there any wonder, then, that complete discouragement prevailed?

In case you are wondering, yes, the familiar agencies were on the scene then, just as they are today, but by this time, most of us who had previously sought their help were well aware that the atmosphere of their consulting rooms was not one of encouragement through opportunity, but a dull repetition of what they felt were our limitations: mattress making, chair caning, weaving, basketry, broom making, piano tuning, and their latest inspiration, door-to-door selling. Their representatives were totally unconscious of the realities of the day and the ambitions of those hey so ardently sought to help.

It is significant to note here that the opportunities for employment that eventually materialized in the many war plants during the early forties were wholly due to the efforts of resourceful blind individuals. Through their own initiative and perseverance, they made application in person and gained acceptance. As they continued to perform their assigned duties and their capabilities readily became apparent to their employers and to others who were evaluating the situation, many additional opportunities for similar employment were made available to blind workers elsewhere. At the conclusion of the war, the services were no longer needed, however, and workers were dismissed.

It was during those days of little hope that the National Federation of the Blind began to take shape. Concerned blind individuals got together with blind residents in several states to discuss the advantages of presenting a united front. Together, they discussed much needed reforms in legislation and potential opportunities in education and employment. Building an organization that would include input from blind people in all parts of the country was a slow and tedious process, but those pioneers prevailed, and as a consequence of their tenacity, the NFB is now the largest organization of blind consumers in the entire country.

Yes, there is excellent reason for optimism. Today, more blind people than ever before are sharing their thoughts and their hopes, and expressing themselves as one. More blind people than ever before are involving themselves in NFB activities and making personal sacrifices to support the united effort. Indeed, that personal involvement of blind individuals themselves is the very core from which their blind leaders and workers derive their energy and their motivation. Simply knowing that they are not alone, that they have the solid support of those for whom they speak and act, will make the big difference, and it is this difference which will eventually result in the improvements sought for all concerned.

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The 22nd Annual Convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia was held in Alexandria the weekend of March 14-16. Consistent with recent NFBV conventions, this one abounded with enthusiasm, good fellowship and progress for the blind of Virginia.

NFBV convention delegates and members began arriving on Friday afternoon with the actual work of the convention getting under way on Friday evening with various committee meetings. Those not involved with committee work participated whole-heartedly, as is the Virginia custom, in hospitality, ably hosted by the Potomac Chapter.

Saturday's convention program was varied and lively. We were pleased to have Dr. Larry Scadden, Director Division of Rehabilitation in the Bureau for the Blind and Visually Handicapped report to us on his initial activities since beginning work at Rehabilitation Services Administration in Washington. Some of the other program items were a presentation from the Commissioner of Insurance for the Commonwealth of Virginia, who spoke on the implementation of our insurance discrimination legislation and a lively panel discussion with representatives from the three radio reading services for the blind currently operating within Virginia.

Jim Gashel represented the NFB National Office at the convention. He brought us up-to-date on our national activities and on the status of our national legislation. His banquet address was both thought provoking and inspiring.

Sunday morning was primarily devoted to the internal business of the NFBV. Chapter and committee reports were presented and acted upon. This year the resolutions that were adopted by the convention primarily dealt with some of the activities of the Virginia Commission for the Visually Handicapped. Elections were held with the following officers elected for two year terms: Charles Brown, President; Robert McDonald, First Vice President; Dawnelle Cruze, Second Vice President; Nancy Hoover, Recording Secretary; Jimmy Nelson, Corresponding Secretary; and Marion McDonald, Treasurer.

Conventions of the NFBV are always a pleasure to attend and to participate in. We left the convention this year with the conviction that we are making real progress for the blind of Virginia and with the dedication to carry this work forward no matter its difficulties and the sacrifices which we may have to make.

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(Note: Mrs. Stewart is a member of the national staff of JOB.)


2 lbs ground beef
3/4 cup oatmeal
1 chopped onion
1 egg
1 green chopped pepper
1 tablespoon mustard
dash of salt & pepper


3/4 cup ketchup
1½ tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon mustard
dash of nutmeg
dash of white sugar

Mix together all ingredients of meatloaf and place in a meatloaf pan. In separate bowl mix ingredients of sauce and spread over top of the meatloaf. Bake at 350 degrees for 1½ hours.

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Word has reached us of another first for the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina and Don Capps. It is a tribute to the blind of the state and to our national First Vice President: South Carolina Baptists and others in the state who are blind soon will be able to hear the Baptist Courier. The Missions Department plans to make South Carolina Baptists' official newsmagazine—and the largest circulation news publication in the state—available to the blind on 90-minute cassette tapes starting with the first issue in July. Bernice Popham, associate in the Missions Department, said the tapes will be provided free but must be returned for use again. Popham said the Department will work through the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina.

Cost-Of-Living Increase Announced for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income Beneficiaries

Social Security and Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries are entitled to receive a 14.3% cost-of-living increase beginning July, 1980. This increase is based upon the rise in prices from the first quarter of 1979 as compared to the same period during 1980. In actual dollar terms this year's increase means that the average worker who retires at age 65 will now receive monthly cash benefits of $330 from Social Security; the average benefit for a retired couple is now $563.00 per month. Disability Insurance Beneficiaries now receive average payments of $370 per month. With respect to the Supplemental Security Income program, the maximum federal payment amount to an eligible individual is now $238.00, while an eligible couple can receive as much as $357.00 per month. Of course, individual circumstances will affect the actual amount of benefits payable in any particular case.


Ben Snow, Treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind Merchants Division, sends word that he has opened a Post Office Box for the purpose of conducting Merchants Division business. The address to write to is Ben Snow, treasurer, National Federation of the Blind Merchants Division, PO Box 156, Federal Station, New Haven, Conn. 06510.


Loretta France, wife of Sterling France—President of the National Federation of the Blind of New York, was recently recognized for outstanding church-community leadership. Loretta was one of ten women selected by the Minnie L. Floyd Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church to receive the annual recognition for outstanding church-community leadership. Loretta is an active and dedicated Federationist among her many other civic duties.


Guitar instruction offered on cassette. $4.00 for the first lesson and $2.00 for each additional lesson thereafter. Students can discontinue lessons at any time. All that's required is a written notice prior to doing so. This is an experimental program. For more information, please write to: Raymond RoKita, 6875 Carter Road, Spring Arbor, Michigan 49283.


Connecticut is proud to announce the forming of a new Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut. On Saturday, March 22nd, the Greater New Haven Chapter of the NFB of Conn, adopted its Constitution and elected officers. Those elected were: Bruno Andrioli, President; Fred Stackpole, Vice President; Carol Goodwin, Secretary; and Harold Goodwin, Treasurer.


Wedding Bells: Our National Office is always happy to announce a new first. At 5:30 Friday afternoon, June 20, 1980, Maria Williams and Mike Miller were married in the conference room at our national headquarters at the National Center for the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland. Eileen Edlund is Mike's mother, and Maria, who has recently been teaching in Baltimore, is a long-time Federationist. She was a long-time leader of the West Virginia affiliate and then worked in Pennsylvania. We all wish Mike and Maria well.

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