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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Democrats, Republicans Urge End to Subminimum Wage

From DisabilityScoop

By Michelle Diament
July 28, 2016

Disability rights advocate Anastasia Somoza, who has cerebral palsy and
spastic quadriplegia, waves to delegates after speaking at the Democratic
National Convention in Philadelphia on Monday. The issue of pay for workers
with disabilities is receiving attention in both the Democratic and
Republican Party platforms. (Clem Murray/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

With all eyes on the race for the White House, both political parties are calling for big change to rules on employing people with disabilities.

The platforms approved this month at the Democratic and Republican Party conventions are both urging a move toward competitive employment.

Currently, under a federal law dating back to the 1930s, employers are able to get special permission from the U.S. Department of Labor to pay people with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

Now, however, the political winds appear to be shifting.

“We … support creating one fair wage for all workers by ending the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers and people with disabilities,” reads the Democrats’ agenda ratified this week at the party’s gathering in Philadelphia.

The plan echoes comments made by the party’s presidential nominee Hillary Clinton earlier this year on the campaign trail.

Meanwhile, the GOP also signaled its support for similar change in the platform approved at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last week.

“Our TIME Act (Transition to Integrated and Meaningful Employment) will modernize the Fair Labor Standards Act to encourage competitive employment for persons with disabilities,” the Republicans stated. “We endorse efforts like Employment First that replace dependency with jobs in the mainstream of the American workforce.”

The TIME Act is a proposal in Congress that would bar the Labor Department from issuing new certificates allowing the payment of subminimum wage and would phase out the use of existing certificates within three years. Since it was introduced in 2015, the legislation has failed to gain much traction.

“The recognition of this issue by leaders of both political parties further confirms that the time has long passed to eliminate the unfair and separate wage system for people with disabilities,” said Mark Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind, which supports an end to subminimum wage.

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