People on the Go of Maryland eliminated 14C in the state! A state working together to make change happen for people with disabilities
People On the Go of Maryland (POG) is the state-wide self-advocacy organization. We have been in existence for 30 years. POG feels sheltered workshops are outdated and paying people sub-minimum wage infringes on a person's civil rights. We feel the rest of the country should eliminate this outdated law and stand with Maryland and other states that have also taken the steps to insure that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are working and living a life that they choose through the power of choice.
This is 2019, not 1938 when there was much greater emphasis on manufacturing work now the economy has shifted away from that type of work. The original intent of section 14 C of the fair labor standards act was put into place in order to provide people with disabilities pre-vocational training that they could then use to obtain employment. It wasn't intended for people to stay in the program for years as they do today. We feel that all people have the right to work and make competitive wages so that they can be contributing members of our society. The topic of reducing reliance on and eventually phasing out the use of 14 C certificates can be controversial, however, we must begin by examining this practice in the context of the time that it was put into place. In 1938 there were very few opportunities for people with disabilities to actively participate in the workforce; this practice was put into place so that people with disabilities may gain useful skills in order to prepare them for the workforce; this was intended as vocational training and not to replace meaningful employment. In 1938 there were no Americans with Disabilities Act or any other civil rights legislation protecting the rights of people with disabilities. The law was not intended to be a permanent solution for people with disabilities; and yet despite all of the advances we've made with our legal system, technology advances and social views for other marginalized groups of people it is still considered an acceptable practice. In Maryland the phase out of sub minimum wage was a partnership between People On the Go of Maryland, provider organizations, state agencies, national advocacy organizations, and the protection and advocacy organization for Maryland. These partners are key allies in the support of our success in not only creating this legislation, but also to the success of people with disabilities getting out of sub-minimum wage and into meaningful employment. It's also important to note that the workgroup which came together to resolve issues with the legislation was led by people with disabilities. Another key component for the success of the legislation was the benchmarks, tracking what people are doing when working, monitoring how many certificates are in active use and other benchmarks most importantly the phase out is a process which is ongoing until October 1 of 2020. We started out with 41 14c certificate holders and are now at 23 holders. When we surveyed our membership many of whom were in 14 C placements, the majority felt it was time for the state to eliminate paying people with disabilities less than minimum wage.
I am not only speaking as someone who advocates for policy but as a person with a disability who went to a residential school and worked in what is colloquially known as a sheltered workshop. I can tell you that I did not gain any useful skills when I was shredding paper, crushing cans or putting plastic bubbles together. What was clear to me is that I was undervalued and so were the people around me. It was difficult for me to find employment after graduation because I was not prepared for the workforce.
In conclusion, we feel the federal government should make the commitment to phase out 14 C certificates.