[Nfbnet-members-list] Blind Workers Being Organized

Kevan Worley kevanworley at blindmerchants.org
Tue Jun 25 01:26:21 UTC 2013

Greetings colleagues,

Dr. Maurer has asked Anil Lewis and me to lead an 
effort reconstituting the Blind Industrial 
Workers of America. As our battle for fair wages 
continues, we must reach more blind workers. It 
is important to harness their experience and 
expertise earned in the trenches on the front 
line for the common effort. National Industries 
for the Blind (NIB) makes much of the fact that 
they do not pay blind workers less than the 
minimum wage on Federal AbilityOne contracts. 
They often conveniently ignore the million-dollar 
contracts they perform for state government and 
private industry. Many NIB shops are less than 
forthcoming about the thousands of blind men and 
women who toil day after day, month after month, 
year after year in so-called work activity 
centers. NIB says these "work activity centers" 
are not work, but "training and rehabilitation." 
These work activity centers fill contract orders 
for products. They enhance the bottom line of the 
NIB agency. We know of Federation members with 
college degrees who have attempted to gain 
advancement to the front office without equal 
consideration with their sighted peers. We know 
of shops in which jokes about the blind are 
routine among sighted supervisors on the factory 
floor. It is not uncommon for a workshop to 
provide "rehab training" under a contract to the 
state rehabilitation agency. Talk about sitting 
in the cat bird seat. They get paid to provide 
"blindness skills training" which allows them to 
channel some workers into a work activity center 
from which the shop profits from those same 
clients doing subminimum wage work on state 
contracts. The shop then regularly administers 
demeaning time tests which will then allow the 
shop in the cat bird seat to channel some clients 
to positions on the factory floor, which best 
suits the needs of the sighted highly-paid 
custodians. We need a strong union of 
Federationists with the courage to confront the 
unfair, discriminatory and corrupt regimes 
prevalent in many shops, whether they are NIB, 
NISH or any other work environment. When 
non-profit or for-profit companies treat blind 
employees with respect, dignity and equality of 
opportunity, they will welcome the creation of 
the National Federation of the Blind Industrial 
Workers of America. When they do not, the BIWA 
will be on the front line ready to investigate, publicize and act.

The Blind Industrial Workers of America has a 
proud tradition in the history of the Federation. 
Please let our colleagues know about our upcoming 
information organizational meeting. If you know 
of members working in JWOD programs or other 
direct labor, or members of your affiliate have 
an interest in learning about and supporting the 
effort of the BIWA, please encourage their 
attendance at our meeting. It will be on July 
4th. We expect the meeting to take less than 2 
hours. We will meet immediately following the 
afternoon convention session on Thursday, July 4. 
We will meet in Salon 6. Please announce on your 
state listserves, at your convention caucuses and in your delegation.

The BIWA, a union of Federationists.
·        Building the movement
·        Respect and dignity for all workers
·        Fair wages
·        Better working conditions
·        Equality of opportunity for career advancement
·        21st century training leading to fair pay for real work
·        Blind working men and women have a right 
to fair treatment just like everybody else
·        Blind workers speaking for themselves

At your service,

cid:image001.jpg at 01CDBCF2.C07B8380

Kevan Worley
Executive Director
National Association of Blind Merchants
<mailto:kevanworley at blindmerchants.org>kevanworley at blindmerchants.org

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