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Friday, November 30, 2018

Case Against Subminimum Wages

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the employment of adults with autism and other disabilities.

At The Hill, Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, arguest against subminimum wages:
The Fair Labor Standards Act, passed in 1938, was a landmark law enacted with the specific intention of protecting the rights of American workers. It established such modern norms as a 40-hour workweek, overtime pay, restrictions against child labor, and the federal minimum wage. However, it also introduced an exception to that minimum wage with the inclusion of Section 14(c), which allows employers to obtain a special wage certificate granting the permission to pay people with disabilities at a rate “lower than the minimum wage.” There it is in black and white, discrimination codified into United States law.
To put it bluntly, Americans with disabilities do not want your pity. We want your respect. We want you to respect us enough to extend the opportunity to work in a meaningful job, to work side-by-side with you toward a common goal, and most importantly to earn a living wage so that we can be independent.

The American Dream is generally understood as the opportunity for anyone, regardless of background, to achieve success and prosperity through hard work and determination. Section 14(c) creates a second class of citizens, based solely on disability, that are unable to experience the benefits of that dream. Americans with disabilities are determined, we are willing, and we are most definitely able to work hard, but regardless of how hard we work, success and prosperity will always be well out of reach as long as Section 14(c) is on the books. Our nation’s commitment to end discrimination against people with disabilities must include ending the payment of subminimum wages, otherwise it is nothing more than a hollow platitude.