By Jim Clapper
The State Legislature passed a bill during the last session that starts the process of eliminating the utilization of Commensurate Wages in Minnesota.
There are around 7000 people with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) in Minnesota that are employed and paid commensurate wages under the 14c provisions of the Fair Labor and Standards Act. It is an interesting and controversial chronology of how this unfortunate language got included in the Health and Human Services omnibus bill, but it is not worth spending any time on that as we simply need to deal with the fact that this language is now in statute.
This will occur after the Task Force completes its work in August 2025, which is mandated in the statute ARC Minnesota, Minnesota Disability Law Center, Autism Society of Minnesota, and other disability organizations have been working hard for several years to eliminate the utilization of 14c.
To all of them, I just want to say, “GET REAL!!”
Defining personal fulfillment for those with disabilities
ARC Minnesota expresses its opinion in its Policy statement of Nov 3, 2020, with the following excerpts: People with I/DD ”deserve the opportunity to explore, find, and keep jobs that provide personal fulfillment and help build wealth.”
I have talked with dozens of people with I/DD in my advocacy work over the last 20 years who are very fulfilled in having employment and a paycheck even if their disabilities limit them to a very low rate of productivity as compared to a typical person.
My only conclusion is that ARC Minnesota wants to define “personal fulfillment” according to its collective mindset instead of the people who will actually be affected. So much for Person Centered Planning and Informed Choice….!
Business partnerships without financial incentive = Wishful thinking
ARC Minnesota goes on to say that one way to accomplish its objective is to, “create innovative and creative partnerships with Minnesota’s business community” to avoid the stark reality that elimination of commensurate wages will eliminate jobs.
Again I say, “GET REAL.”
I spent 38 years in private business. Half of my career was spent as a Manufacturing Director for several business and staff assignments, in the USA and Europe. One of my staff assignments was to develop increased business alliances to outsource those products and technologies that were not proprietary and were under significant competitive pressure.
I developed a process that many other manufacturing directors used, to move non-proprietary manufacturing out of internal production plants into contract manufacturing locations in the USA, Mexico, China, Malaysia, Canada, etc.
The biggest driver that necessitated outsourcing was Price – commodity products required an intense focus on cost reduction to stay in the portfolio. Outsourcing was one way to reduce costs and compete.
The disability organizations that are pushing the elimination of 14c, clearly do not have experience and knowledge about the realities of private business!
I spent several years serving on a board of directors of a non-profit Day Training and Habilitation service provider which had a center-based employment program. This small manufacturing facility was funded by both DEED under the Community Rehabilitation Program and DT&H Employment under DHS/Disability Services Division. This center had to be closed a few years ago because of several years of “red ink.”
One of the cornerstone businesses we did contract manufacturing services for, had to find a cheaper source of supply and moved the production to Mexico. Even with the utilization of 14c and some funding from DEED and DHS, we could not survive this exit.
But the lesson here is that without 14c, we would never have had this work to begin with. At least we had the opportunity to have this work as long as we did, providing employment for several dozen people with I/DD.
Help keep 14C alive in Minnesota
Parents, families, friends, and self-advocates need to get involved in this initiative and keep 14c alive and well in Minnesota.
A-Team Minnesota and Minnesota Families and Advocates Coalition are both working to change the direction and membership of this task force and need your support and involvement.
If we do not get deeply involved and make a big push here, we will have to live with some serious consequences.
We cannot let this idealistic, naïve, and dangerous initiative succeed!
Written by Jim Clapper
Member of A-Team Minnesota and Minnesota Families and Advocates Coalition