Latest 14(c) News Includes Many Questions and Challenges

One of the biggest challenges facing the nation’s sheltered workshops—including those that employ more than 7,000 people in Missouri—involves questions over Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Yes, but where does the money come from?

Some outside the workshop community question paying some workers with disabilities below minimum wage. This includes well-intentioned people who may lack experience in the business and funding aspects of workshops. Higher wages would always be desirable, but without massive state and federal subsidies, they are impossible.

Workshops operate substantially on funds generated by their business services. While county and state subsidies are important, business contract income represents the single most important source—some 60 percent of workshops’ revenue.

In a competitive business world, additional income to pay consumers higher wages would have to come from state and county taxpayers, something that is highly unlikely.

This scenario is often overlooked by supporters of legislation such as HR 831, the so-called “Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act of 2013.” It would direct the Secretary of Labor to discontinue special wage certificates that allow workers with disabilities to be paid at less than minimum wage.

While it sounds good, many believe this would have the opposite effect of its intentions. If workshops were required to meet higher pay levels without significant additional funding, they would be forced to close.

Full Array of Options is Important

Workshops do support a “full array of employment options for people with disabilities.” In fact, workshops were among the first to pioneer community employment programs that offer options for workers who can perform this level of work. Unfortunately, those who cannot work in competitive, outside positions would be left without any choice except to attend expensive day programs or to sit at home.

MASWM joins with the organization, ACCSES, which represents 1,200 vocational organizations nationally. ACCSES recognizes that work is a valued activity both for the individual and society, providing both tangible and intangible benefits such as independence, economic self-sufficiency, dignity, self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment. Individuals, including individuals with disabilities, should enjoy every opportunity to pursue careers, participate in the workforce and engage actively in the economic marketplace.

ACCSES supports a full array of community-based employment opportunities, provided by qualified rehabilitation professionals, for persons with the most significant disabilities. These include: supported employment and customized employment opportunities provided in competitive, integrated settings; self-employment; and employment opportunities in skill development centers and disability-focused non-profit businesses operated by accredited community rehabilitation programs (CRPs). ACCSES also supports federal policy that facilitates employment options for all individuals, including those who do not meet productivity standards (without or without reasonable accommodations) through Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

ACCSES believes public policy should encourage and facilitate efforts to find competitive, integrated employment opportunities (at or above the minimum or prevailing wage) as the presumptive priority outcome.

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MASWM The Missouri Association of Sheltered Workshop Managers
If you have questions regarding the Missouri Association of Sheltered Workshop Managers, please contact:
Legislative Chair Randy Hylton: Phone (816) 781-6292 or E-mail
rhylton@vsiserve.org
President Brent Blackwell: Phone: (660) 542-1401 Fax: (660) 542-1688; E-mail: bblackwell@ctcis.net