When a neurotypical person accepts a job, they know they are going to be paid at least the minimum wage because that’s the law. Yet, the state can issue permits that allow companies to pay people with disabilities below the minimum wage.
I remember when I was 17, pulling weeds six hours a day at a local Air Force base. My first paycheck was $70. I felt angry, confused and shocked. That was 20 years ago.
Today in Spokane, such big-name companies as Pepsi and Waste Management contract with a local nonprofit that pays their employees with significant developmental disabilities pennies an hour.
In Olympia, the House Labor & Workplace Standards committee is considering Senate Bill 5284 to end this practice after a two-year transition period. And on the federal level, HR 873 (Transformation to Competitive Employment Act) and HR 603 (Raise the Wage Act) could become law in the next two years.
I ask all legislators to put an end to this predatory practice. It’s time the minimum wage was the same for everyone. People with disabilities need to be respected for the work they do. Equality for all means all.
John Lemus, Spokane, advocacy coordinator, AtWork!