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Don’t deny opportunity


To the editor:

The Stateline story on employment of people with developmental disabilities missed the boat (“Disabled persons can be paid less than the minimum wage. Some states want to end that,” The Chief, May 3). 

States’ efforts to eliminate a type of job that, under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, accommodates their special needs, will hurt, badly, the most vulnerable.

Nixing this job category deprives many of the more than 100,000 people who are most compromised of the very work opportunities for which there is no substitute: jobs in specialized employment centers that protect them, by making allowances for their often very substantial limitations. Some disabled folks need these specialized jobs — they want to work, but simply cannot do competitive, minimum wage work, and would fail and suffer further were they compelled to do so. No one is forced into specialized workplaces. 

But forcing competitive, minimum wage jobs on all with these disabilities — including the most disabled members of a quite varied workforce — will deny the most disabled not just productivity and remuneration, but also personal satisfaction, camaraderie and just plain something-to-do.

No state that has nixed 14(c) employment has offered any alternative that works for those on the severe-to-profound end of this spectrum; instead, they end up languishing in front of video screens, or worse. In fact, the only Congressional Budget Office analysis of eliminating 14(c) employment concluded that it would cause a large increase in joblessness among these most disabled Americans. 

The 2020 U.S. Civil Rights Commission report on this issue, cited in the story, prompted the most responses ever to that body — almost all from family members and guardians of these disabled workers — 98 percent of whom opposed doing away with their loved ones’ cherished jobs. 

The Stateline reporter who wrote this piece should have consulted these workers’ families. Would they OK their kin being exploited?

Sam Friedman


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