FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
2,900 Delegates to National Federation of the Blind
Convention Unanimously Reject
Workforce Investment Act Reauthorization
Bill Would Endorse Exploitation of Disabled Workers
Orlando, Florida (July 7, 2011): The National Federation of the Blind at its national convention today voted unanimously to demand fair wages for blind workers. The convention is being attended by 2,900 delegates from across the United States and Puerto Rico. On Wednesday, July 13, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will vote on the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), which contains language reauthorizing the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended. The Rehabilitation Act is supposed to provide services to disabled Americans so that they can obtain competitive employment, but Title V, Section 511 of the proposed Rehabilitation Act language references Section 14(c) of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which allows certain entities holding special wage certificates to pay workers with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage.
Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “Language endorsing the antiquated practice of paying the blind and other workers with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage, which is based on the fallacious premise that disabled workers cannot be productive and do the same work as their non-disabled peers, has no place in legislation designed to increase competitive work opportunities for workers with disabilities. We believe that this language, in effect if not by design, is a Trojan Horse provision that will inevitably lead to the placing of workers with disabilities in subminimum-wage sweatshops. We demand that the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee either amend this bill to remove Title V, Section 511, or simply vote down the entire bill.”