ISAW Consultant Megan on sub-minimum wage

ISAW has a new team of consultants who will be advising us on issues of importance to autistic workers in Kentucky. We recently had the opportunity to talk with Megan, about several of these topics. We asked:

Many self-advocates and other disability rights advocates are working hard on efforts to end sub-minimum wage payments to people with disabilities. However, some organizations and parents have sided with sheltered workshops in saying that those with significant disabilities need these jobs and will likely never be employed elsewhere. These organizations believe that those people with disabilities who are employed at minimum wage or higher cannot understand the complex needs of people with more “significant disabilities.”

What are your thoughts on this?

“I am, like many autistic people, against sub-minimum wages.

There can be some very minimal arguments that some families may not have the money or resources to take care of their disabled adult children. So sub-minimum wage allows them to have “semi-competent” people working around them, who could potentially help them take care of needs, like getting fed, or getting a drink or whatever. And so if you take away that, I suppose, you’re going to have more people at home who might not necessarily have the supports they need.

But that’s not necessarily a good argument for sub-minimum wage, that’s a good argument for us to provide better services for people! And work on wealth disparity, but that’s a different issue.

You know, it’s been proven time and time again that sub-minimum wage work and sheltered workshops do not provide the training to move on to better, different types of work, because people spend decades of their lives inside that [sheltered workshops]. So, [sheltered workshops]’s main claim to being useful is that they help people get job skills, but they clearly don’t.

And it ends up with a lot of segregated people doing sort of demeaning work for very little pay. Obviously its almost always targeted toward people with intellectual disabilities and it ends up keeping people in a poverty loop. Because “sheltered workshop” is not going to look good on anyone’s resume. You won’t be ready for a better job, you won’t learn new skills; from what I understand, you’re also not allowed to interact with other people working there that much.

There are lots of different ways that we can help people get real work. A number of those have been proposed as laws. I think Transformation to Competitive Employment Act (TCEA) is pushing for one right now. Which offers many good solutions to help people move to better work. If there is any other option we should be pushing for it, because sub-minimum wage and sheltered workshops are kind of a bandage to a pretty big wound.”

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For more information on the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act go to: https://centerforpublicrep.org/news/workwithus-by-joining-tcea-call-in-tuesdays-to-support-the-transformation-to-competitive-employment-act/

For more information sub-minimum wage, read about it here: https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/wages/subminimumwage

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