Today, members of Congress reintroduced the Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act (TCIEA). TCIEA would end the subminimum wage for disabled people (called 14(c), based on section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act) over the next five years. Places that pay subminimum wage are called sheltered workshops, and they pay disabled people pennies on the dollar, usually in segregated workplaces where all the workers have disabilities and the people in charge are non-disabled. The bill would stop anyone new from being paid less than minimum wage immediately and also gives states and service providers funding to create better, integrated opportunities. Every person paid less than minimum wage right now would be transitioned to minimum wage by five years after TCIEA passes. ASAN is proud to support this vital piece of legislation.
For years, ASAN has been fighting for self advocates’ rights to real work for real pay. We’ve supported the TCIEA during the last few sessions of Congress and we call upon Congress to finally pass it this year. Equal pay for people with disabilities is a matter of dignity, equality, and being treated as an equal member of our own communities. Congress must pass the TCIEA and ensure that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities can access competitive, integrated jobs that meet our goals!
According to a recent GAO report, the number of people in sheltered workshops decreased from 296,000 to 122,000 between 2010 and 2019. This decrease is a major victory and the result of decades of work from disability advocates at both the federal and state levels. However, we must continue to advocate until subminimum wage is abolished in the United States. While this report showed us how far we’ve come, it also showed us how far we need to go. Of the people still in sheltered work, most are paid less than $3.50 an hour. In addition, the Department of Labor identified labor law violations in two-thirds of its investigations into 14(c) employers. It found over $15 million in back wages owed to more than 73,500 people. TCIEA would move us away from this deeply flawed and discriminatory system, towards the services that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities want and need.
It has been more than 80 years since the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed, introducing the loophole of subminimum wage — and disabled people are still being exploited. It is time for this injustice to come to an end. We urge Congress to pass the bipartisan Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act.
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network seeks to advance the principles of the disability rights movement with regard to autism. ASAN believes that the goal of autism advocacy should be a world in which autistic people enjoy equal access, rights, and opportunities. We work to empower autistic people across the world to take control of our own lives and the future of our common community, and seek to organize the autistic community to ensure our voices are heard in the national conversation about us. Nothing About Us, Without Us!