By TIMOTHY SCHUMANN
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) — U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, Wash., helped reintroduce bipartisan, bicameral legislation to advocate for the rights of disabled workers this week in Congress.
The Eastern Washington congresswoman was joined in reintroducing the Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act, by Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., and U.S. Sens. Steve Daines, R-Mont., and Bob Casey, D-Pa., after the previous version died in a House committee in the 117th Congress.
“We should be doing everything we can to bring people with disabilities off the sidelines and into the workforce,” said Rep. McMorris Rodgers in a joint statement. “Together, we can end the outdated practice of paying individuals with disabilities a subminimum wage and help them live more independent lives.”
Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act currently allows employers to apply for certification from the Department of Labor, which then allows them to pay individuals with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25. There is no legal minimum for how low those wages can go. A recent report by the Government Accountability Office found that half of the workers employed under this Section 14(c) certificate program are earning less than $3.50 an hour.
Bill co-sponsor Scott was not happy about that information.
“We must take this next step to ensure that every worker can succeed in the workplace and earn a fair wage,” the Virginia congressman said.
That same report by the GAO showcased the Department of Labor’s findings that more than two thirds of its investigations into 14(c) certificate holders found labor violations, and owed more than $15 million in back wages owed to more than 73,500 workers.
“Paying workers less than the minimum wage is unacceptable,” said bill co-sponsor Casey. “Everyone deserves to be paid a fair wage, and Americans with disabilities are no exception.”If adopted into law, the act would discontinue issuance of new 14(c) certificates while creating grant programs to help employers transition to paying employees with disabilities at least minimum wage.