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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Raise the Wage Act of 2017 Will Eliminate Subminimum Wages for People with Disabilities

Earlier today Senator Bernie Sanders (VT), Senator Patty Murray (WA), Congressman Bobby Scott (VA), and Congressman Keith Ellison (MN) introduced the Raise the Wage Act of 2017. NCIL supports this legislation and is thankful to its sponsors for taking a step in the right direction toward fair pay for workers, including workers with disabilities.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingThere are several key provisions in this bill: the minimum wage would be incrementally increased to $15 an hour; tipped minimum wage would be phased out; and the ability of employers to pay employees with disabilities subminimum wage would be sunset. NCIL is very excited to see the inclusion of people with disabilities and the use of 14(c) waivers in this bill.

The use of 14(c) waivers to pay people with disabilities less than the minimum wage – sometimes just pennies per hour – is a practice NCIL has long opposed. Paying people lower wages on the basis of their disability is discrimination, and this discrimination is one of the factors that has led people with disabilities to experience double the rate of poverty as people without disabilities. This bill takes a practical approach to the issue by providing transition assistance for businesses that have relied on 14(c) certificates to ensure the successful shift to higher wages. Moreover, information on competitive integrated employment will be provided to people with disabilities employed under these programs. These are both important measures that will help to ensure a successful move away from subminimum wages and toward closing the massive wage gap.

People deserve to be paid fairly for their labor, and NCIL applauds the introduction of this legislation. The Raise the Wage Act of 2017 is a step toward eliminating the inequality that low-wage workers face, and a shift toward fair pay for people with disabilities. This bill will benefit workers, but it will also benefit communities, the economy, and the very businesses that employ these workers. The Raise the Wage Act of 2017 is a strong piece of legislation that we hope to see pass in the 115th Congress.