NDRN Applauds Introduction of Raise the Wage Act

chart showing type of task and pay rate per hour

by Andy Jones
May 25, 2017

The National Disability Rights Network is applauding a new bill in Congress that seeks to end a federal program that allows certain employers to pay people with disabilities subminimum wages.

“The subminimum wage creates and reinforces a life of poverty and dependence on public support for people with disabilities,” NDRN Executive Director Decker said in a news release. “It is long past time Congress acted to end discrimination against people with disabilities in the workplace.

“We see the end of the subminimum wage in the Raise the Wage Act as an important and historic step in acknowledging the inherent worth of individuals.”

Introduced by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Bernie Sanders (D-VT) on May 25, the Raise the Wage Act of 2017 would raise the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour by 2024, gradually eliminate minimum wage exceptions for tipped workers and youth, and index the minimum wage to inflation, according to a bill summary.

Section 14(c) of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act allows certain employers to apply for special certificates, allowing them to hire and pay people with disabilities wages below that of the minimum wage. While initially viewed as a way to help people with disabilities find work who were otherwise deemed unemployable, most disability rights advocates now consider it exploitative and discriminatory.

The Raise the Wage Act would immediately block the Department of Labor from issuing any new certificates under the program. It would also require the current certificates to phase out and require the DOL to provide transition services for prior employees to enter the regular workforce.

For these employees, the minimum wage would be $4.25 an hour a year after the bill is enacted, a rate that would increase by $2 year until it reaches parity with the regular minimum wage.
   
You can read NDRN’s past reports on subminimum wages, “Segregated and Exploited: A Call to Action”[PDF] and “Beyond Segregated and Exploited.”[PDF]

Disability Rights Washington's video and social media project, Rooted in Rights, produced Bottom Dollars, a documentary about sheltered workshops and subminimum wages for people with disabilities. Bottom Dollars has been screened at over 200 locations across the US and will be screened on July 13 in Seattle. Follow this link to get tickets. If you would like to host a viewing of Bottom Dollars in your community, use this form to send your request to Rooted in Rights.

Disability Rights Washington is the designated protection and advocacy agency in Washington and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.