MADISON — A provision in the House’s $1.9 trillion “stimulus” bill could cost thousands of cognitively disabled Americans their jobs. It’s just one of the many “unintended” consequences of an administration bent on ramming through a far left agenda.
In a letter to President Joe Biden, Wisconsin U.S. Reps. Bryan Steil (R-Janesville) and Glenn Grothman (R-Glenbeulah) urge the president to pay special attention to a provision that would remove Section 14(C) from the Fair Labor Standards Act. Current law allows the U.S. Department of Labor to grant special wage certificates to entities that provide employment to workers with disabilities, at below the federal minimum wage.
Critics assert the long-standing section treats disabled workers unfairly. Those who have seen the positive impacts the programs have had in the lives of their loved ones have a different perspective. Hundreds of thousand of disabled Americans are engaged in the work programs, nearly 5,000 in Wisconsin alone.
“Those with cognitive disabilities rely on organizations, like Careers Industries in Racine or KANDU Industries in Janesville not only for employment, but for the caring, supportive community and social opportunities they provide,” Steil said in a statement. “I’ve spoken to these workers and their families in our districts. The message is clear: they do not want to lose their job.”
Grothman said the elimination of Section 14(C) would likely result in the closure of many organizations, like RCS Empowers in Sheboygan and Northwoods Inc. in Portage.
“I strongly encourage President Biden and members of his Administration to tour a few CRPs [Community Rehabilitation Providers] and see for themselves the wonderful work that is done there,” the congressman said. “There are eight CRPs in Wisconsin’s Sixth District and I am confident that you could do a surprise visit to any one of them and come away very impressed.”
Rick Wilson’s cognitively disabled adult son Christopher does assembly work among other jobs as an employee through community rehabilitation center KANDU Industries, which promotes and provides opportunities for the disabled to pursue greater independence.
“My son wants to keep his job. He wants to work, and I am sure that if 14 (c) goes away he will no longer be working and will lose what he so values- his job,” said Wilson, a member of A-Team Wisconsin, which advocates for the disabled and their families.
It’s not clear whether the Senate version of the stimulus bill will include a measure striking the section.
Letter to President Biden from Reps. Steil and Grothman
Dear President Biden,
We write to you today on an important issue impacting citizens across the nation. Many people are concerned about the impacts of terminating the protections and flexibilities provided by Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act will have on workers with disabilities, especially those with significant intellectual and developmental disabilities. We urge you to take these concerns into account.
As you know, many individuals with disabilities often find great benefit working in environments that cater to their unique needs. Community Rehabilitation Providers (CRP), who make up the majority of 14(c) certificate holders, support employment access and vocational training opportunities for individuals with disabilities. CRPs provide individuals with disabilities what other workplaces cannot, including transportation services, access to qualified rehabilitation professionals, and employment security and stability. When you visit a CRP, you quickly learn when speaking to the individuals who work there that they get more out of the job than simply a wage. They get a sense of purpose and a community that supports them. The rewards of being employed go far beyond just the employee, extending to the families of those with disabilities, the organizations they touch, and the entire surrounding community. Few things are more inspirational than seeing the pride of work that is evident in the men and women working in organizations like these.
Unfortunately, your administration appears to be racing through consideration of a Coronavirus relief package that may include an increase in the minimum wage and the termination of Section 14(c) certificates. When we have discussions on far reaching policies, we need to know what the potential impacts are. One of the unfortunate impacts of a minimum wage increase coupled with the termination of Section 14(c) will be the destruction of job opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Rather than experiencing the dignity of earning a paycheck like every other American, many individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities will be limited to day rehabilitation services or unpaid volunteer work, both of which are options that already are available to people who choose to work under a certificate, or they will have no option other than being at home, a choice that has an enormous economic impact on families and a demoralizing, negative effect on the individuals who are left without the job of their choice. It is disrespectful to the individuals who choose to work under Section 14(c) to eliminate this option without any consideration of their desires. Although they are trying to be heard, their voices are being drowned out by people whose lives will not be affected by the elimination of 14(c). We must maintain flexibility for these individuals so they do not lose their jobs and the support those jobs provide.
On behalf of these working men and women, their families, and their advocates, we strongly urge you to fully consider the impact that a one-size-fits-all policy has on every member of society. Everyone deserves a chance to have meaningful employment and feel valued.
Bryan Steil and Glenn Grothman