#AdvocacyMatters: Real Wages for Real Work

September 9, 2022 / #AdvocacyMatters

The concept of equity is often misconstrued as everyone receiving the same things. In reality, equity in our society would be ensuring that every member has the tools and opportunities necessary to be successful, regardless of race, background, or disability. The rights enjoyed by the majority should be enjoyed by all… and one of these most basic rights is receiving a fair wage for work completed.

Under provision 14(c) in the 80-year-old Fair Labor Standards Act, employers are able to apply for permits to pay people with disabilities far under the current $7.25 hourly minimum wage. In developing the 14(c) provision, Labor Secretary Frances Perkins argued that these subminimum wages were reserved for “substandard workers,” whom she described as “persons who by reason of illness or age or something else are not up to normal production.” More than three-quarters of a century later these subminimum wages remain not just legal, but accepted and practiced, in several states.

As decades have passed since these archaic policies were first instated, attitudes of advocacy and empowerment have pushed forward and reshaped the way we think about those with disabilities in employment situations. These subminimum wages wrongly assume people with disabilities are incapable of being fully integrated into the general labor workforce, a belief at odds with the disability policy framework that has emerged over the past 40 years.

Last week Representatives Brigid Kelly and Dontavius Jarrells introduced Ohio House Bill 716 - "Eliminate subminimum wage for persons with disabilities." This bill focuses on ensuring Ohioans with disabilities are paid a fair wage for their work. While we don’t know what the future looks like for this particular piece of legislation, our guiding principle that #AdvocacyMatters will continue to shape and inspire this fight for occupational equity: A fair wage for fair work.

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