At USA Today, Tom Ridge -- former DHS secretary and current chair of the National Organization on Disability.-- argues against the subminimum wage for people with disabilities:
When I testified before the U.S. Civil Rights Commission on this issue in 2019, I explained that the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964 unequivocally told the world that discrimination based upon race, color, religion, sex or national orientation would not be tolerated in America. The Americans with Disabilities Act expanded the Civil Rights Act’s powerful and historic protections to include people with disabilities. All Americans should have the opportunity to pursue their dreams.
The phase out of what is known as section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which sanctions paying individuals with disabilities less than minimum wage, is no less than another critical civil rights issue. It is inconsistent with the fairness and equal opportunity guaranteed to every citizen in the United States under existing legislation.
Some people working under 14(c) certificates earn mere pennies per hour. This system tells Americans with disabilities and their families that they are not worth the same as other Americans, that society values them and their labor less.
In 1938, when the FLSA legislation was passed, it was assumed that a worker with a disability was less productive than a non-disabled worker. In retrospect, it was a flawed assumption. We want to be fair to the intent of the original legislation, which was to provide individuals with disabilities an opportunity to enter the workforce.
Nearly a century later, however, the law still contains Section 14(c). Now we know that workers with disabilities, given equal opportunity and appropriate tools or technologies, can perform as well as their non-disabled counterparts. This has been reaffirmed in the past year with so many of us working successfully from home, something people with disabilities have argued they could have been doing all along.
It is long past time to take this fair, commonsense step in the march to freedom for Americans with disabilities. By ensuring that the elimination of the sub-minimum wage remains part of his American Rescue Plan, President Biden can send a powerful message that all Americans, including those with disabilities, must have a chance to have the financial freedom and security we all desire.