Use all or part of the letter below to inform your lawmaker, disability agencies (such as ARC and AUSM), and others how important a full array of employment  choices are to you. Be sure to add personal information about how center based work choices and/or commensurate special wages affect you, your family member, or your values as a community member who looks out for vulnerable adults.  Keep your letters as close to one page as possible and be sure you add your name and contact information.  

Dear Rep/Senator _____________,

Please reject proposed legislation in the Build Back Better “Reconciliation Bill” that will divert funding intended for ALL people with disabilities toward elimination of funding for 14c provisions (special wages that allow our most severely disabled people to continue to work). This funding should reward states that EXPAND vocational choices instead of reduce or eliminate them. Some people require and prefer center based vocational options and are not able to work in a competitive environment. Please reject HR 2373 “Transformation to Competitive Employment Act”, HR 603/S 53 “Raise the Wage Act, 2021” (Section 6), and “American Jobs Plan, 2021” (Workforce Development Section, page 10) in favor of retaining the language of Section 14c of the current Fair Labor Standards Act; allowing provisions for commensurate, ability-based compensation for people with disabilities.

Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act is an intentional section of the law that was written to provide fair compensation, based on productivity, to employees who are not able to work at a competitive pace or average capacity. Like our constitution and many other good laws, it has stood the test of time. Wages for clients in supported work centers are calculated periodically by the percentage of work (units) completed against the average performance of non-disabled peers doing the same tasks. Some workers receive more than minimum wage, some less. The majority of people who work for special minimum wages have already qualified to receive disability support to cover most of their living expenses. They choose to work because it promotes dignity, self-esteem, and a sense of community purpose. It also provides some rewarding discretionary money to independently purchase personal items and help pay for inclusive activities in the community. Due to the severity of their disabilities, the vast majority of people who work for special wages would not be able to work at all if the 14(c) provision did not exist. A basic level of productivity and conduct is expected in the competitive workforce, which is not always possible for many individuals. 

A recent push by the Employment First initiative toward “fully integrated, competitive employment” for people with disabilities, has led to criticism of supported work centers and other settings that serve a majority of people who have disabilities. Negative connotations, describing work centers as being exploitative and “not part of the community” have been used to discredit the important services being provided. Use of these facilities is a CHOICE, not a mandate, and thousands of people who are unable to work in unsupported environments have chosen this option for a variety of reasons. Elimination of 14c will result in closure of these facilities, forcing mass unemployment (not counted) and increased burden on aging parents and caregivers. It will not increase employment options for those who are already capable of competitive work. At a time when we should be expanding supported employment options, it makes no sense to eliminate options that work for many people. This action will affect my family/loved one by  (describe the effect on your family member here).

Segregation is defined as the forcible separation of a group from the whole. No one is ever forced to work under 14c but choose to do so because they love being with their peer group with trained support staff in a welcoming and developmentally appropriate environment. Supported work centers also provide job coaches and help locate competitive employment in the community for those who are able. Unfortunately, appropriate jobs are often not available, especially in small, rural communities.

The repercussions and inevitable displacement of thousands of disabled people from their supported employment agencies that will result from passage of any of these bills has not been fully studied. Nor has a reasonable plan been proposed to provide equitable services for the affected people and their families. Prior to passage of a bill that has such far-reaching and potentially devastating outcomes, it would make sense to first carefully research and plan for viable, realistic, and economically feasible alternatives.

Please urge your constituents to retain the language of 14(c) to allow special ability-based wages for people with disabilities.                   

Sincerely,