[nfbwatlk] FW: Compassion Can Be Discrimination: Sign The Petition Against Subminimum Wages

Mike Freeman k7uij at panix.com
Wed Apr 10 02:54:36 UTC 2013

From: Chapter-presidents [mailto:chapter-presidents-bounces at nfbnet.org] On
Behalf Of Lewis, Anil
Sent: Tuesday, April 09, 2013 5:23 AM
To: Affiliate Presidents (state-affiliate-leadership-list at nfbnet.org); NFB
Chapter Presidents discussion list (chapter-presidents at nfbnet.org); NABS
List (nabs-l at nfbnet.org)
Subject: [Chapter-presidents] Compassion Can Be Discrimination: Sign The
Petition Against Subminimum Wages



Compassion Can Be Discrimination: Sign The Petition Against Subminimum Wages


Anil Lewis 


Most theological references to people with disabilities portray us as broken
people in need of healing who are dependent on the benevolence of others.
Also, most faith traditions have a moral imperative to seek salvation by
caring for the less fortunate, and people with disabilities, being deemed
less fortunate, are therefore tokens for that salvation. The false
perception of brokenness, coupled with the misapplied moral edict, results
in a "compassionate discrimination" that limits the potential of every
person with a disability.

Compassionate discrimination, like other types of discrimination, springs
from ignorance, and deprives us all of the value each person and group of
people has to offer. But unlike the abusive treatment of slaves resulting
from racial discrimination, and unlike the chauvinistic treatment of women
resulting from gender discrimination, compassionate discrimination is
cloaked in sympathy and good intentions. The segregation of
African-Americans in educational, employment, and living environments is
unlawful and universally censured-no questions asked, no exceptions.
Conversely, the segregation of people with disabilities in school, work, and
home is justified as the creation of safe environments where we are nurtured
and protected. 

The 20 to 30 percent wage disparity between male and female employees is
considered a discriminatory practice in the workplace. But perversely, the
disparity between an executive's $500,000 salary and the 22-cent-per-hour
wage of the worker with a disability is considered reasonable. Work at such
wages is even promoted as an opportunity for the disabled worker to
experience the tangible and intangible benefits of work. Given this confused
moral perspective, it is almost understandable why public policies have been
developed that continues to limit people with disabilities from reaching our
full potential.

In 1938, policymakers, acting on a laudable desire to integrate people with
disabilities into the workforce, made a huge mistake when they enacted
Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act
www.dol.gov/elaws/esa/flsa/14c/. That provision that authorizes the U.S.
Department of Labor to issue Special Wage Certificates to employers,
permitting them to pay workers with disabilities less than the federal
minimum wage. As a result of the erroneous belief, commonly held in 1938 but
long since disproved, that people with disabilities cannot be productive
employees, employers are permitted to pay workers with disabilities
subminimum wages that are supposedly based on our productivity. This denial
of fundamental wage protections to workers with disabilities, although
masked as a compassionate offering of a work opportunity that would
otherwise not be available, leaves over 300,000 people with disabilities
employed at subminimum wages, some as low as three cents per hour. 

A person with a disability is not less valuable than any other person, and
although employing that person may require the use of nontraditional
training and employment strategies, a worker with a disability is not
inherently less productive than a nondisabled worker. Section 14(c) is a
poor public policy that perpetuates compassionate discrimination and harms
people with disabilities by denying us proper education and training
opportunities, and by prohibiting most of us from obtaining competitive,
integrated employment.   

It is true that over 70 percent of people with disabilities are unemployed,
but current segregated subminimum-wage work environments have proven that
they are not the solution to this dilemma. We must understand that it is not
the disability itself that causes this circumstance. It is the lack of
understanding about the true capacity of people with disabilities that
results in the misperception that we cannot be productive. Once this
misperception has been embraced, it is difficult, if not impossible, for us
to obtain real opportunities to demonstrate that we have that capacity.
Rather than challenging the mistaken status quo, society's "compassionate"
remedy is to continue to create "safe," segregated living, educational, and
work environments for people with disabilities. 

In order to implement a real solution to the unemployment problem, we must
remove the mask of compassion from the discrimination we face. We must
eliminate the "separate but equal" environments and we must repeal the
discriminatory policies that are founded on the flawed assertion of
incapacity. We can achieve this goal. Congressman Gregg Harper has
introduced the Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act of 2013 (H.R.
831) to repeal Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, and an online
petition that you can sign to support the repeal of Section 14(c) can be
found at https://www.nfb.org/fair-wages-petition
<https://nfb.org/civicrm/petition/sign?sid=1&reset=1> .

We are not broken. Our disabilities are neither a curse from God nor penance
for our sins. They are a manifestation of the life with which God has
blessed us, and although the vessels which contain them are different, we
have the same needs, desires, and abilities as everyone else. People with
disabilities are not passive recipients of benevolence, we are also
benevolent. We clothe the naked, we feed the hungry, we care for the sick
and we demonstrate the capacity to believe, to have faith, and to worship
God. We demand to be fully participating members of society, and we refuse
to be reduced to the status of tokens for the salvation of others.

Anil Lewis was born in 1964 in Atlanta, Georgia.  Lewis was diagnosed at age
nine with retinitis pigmentosa, although his vision was fairly unaffected
until 1989.  He has a master's in business administration in computer
information systems and a master's in public administration from Georgia
State University. He has developed a job placement program for people with
disabilities, represented people with disabilities in a law office and
headed Georgia's chapter of the National Federation of the Blind
<https://nfb.org/> https://nfb.org/. Today, he lives in Baltimore, Maryland
and is the Director of Advocacy and Policy at the National Federation of the
Blind Jernigan Institute. He works with the NFB's government affairs team to
eliminate subminimum wages and the antiquated notion that blind and disabled
people cannot be productive members of society. He is also the proud father
of Amari, his bright, ambitious son.  


Mr. Anil Lewis

Director of Advocacy and Policy


"Eliminating Subminimum Wages for People with Disabilities" 




200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place

Baltimore, Maryland   21230


(410) 659-9314 ext. 2374 (Voice)

(410) 685-5653 (FAX)

Email: alewis at nfb.org

Web: www.nfb.org

twitter: @anillife 


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