As the fight to end subminimum wage continues on the federal level, movement is being made on the state and local levels to ban the practice of giving people with disabilities less than the minimum wage.
In the last four years, the practice has been banned in New Hampshire, Maryland, Alaska, and in cities such as Seattle, Wash., and Reno, Nev.
The force behind efforts in Seattle was led by Shaun Bickley, who works at the Arc of Kings County as an Advocacy Specialist.
“We have way more momentum on it than we’ve ever had in both states and the federal level, and that’s increasing … this is the result of years of organizing by disabled activists,” Bickley told Disability Scoop.
This issue has been placed in the national spotlight due to the heightened expectation of what people with disabilities envision for their careers after adequately preparing for higher-level jobs.
Approximately 47% of people with disabilities surveyed by the National Core Indicators are looking for community employment.
How could you help in this fight to end the subminimum wage?
“Identify if you have people on the city, state, or federal level that you can meet with or talk to … having legalized discrimination doesn’t help us. We know this model doesn’t work,” according to Bickley.
Already this year, two bills have been introduced in Congress. One would require the Labor Department to halt issues of 14(c) certificates, which allows companies to hire people with disabilities on a subminimum wage. The second bill calls for phasing out subminimum wage for people with disabilities within six years.
Not all families of people with disabilities want to see the practice of subminimum wages go away. For loved ones of lower-functioning people with disabilities, the elimination of subminimum wage jobs would leave the person in the dark.
Those jobs that are below the $5.25 minimum wage mark give people with disabilities an incredible amount of self-worth and confidence.
However, most of the jobs that qualify for a subminimum wage are too secluded and don’t provide adequate stepping stones to the general workforce.