Home > Uncategorized > We have questions for a legislative subcommittee reviewing employment of the developmentally disabled

We have questions for a legislative subcommittee reviewing employment of the developmentally disabled

A special legislative subcommittee’s review of barriers to employment of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) is long overdue, but it is unclear what direction the subcommittee will take on this important issue.

The “Workability Subcommittee” of the Massachusetts Legislature’s Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities Committee has scheduled a public hearing on October 22 at 10:30 a.m. at the State House in Room B-1.

The hearing notice states that the Subcommittee is seeking to identify “solutions to promote opportunities for individuals with disabilities to participate and succeed in the workforce.”

Patty and Mark Garrity photo2

Patty Garrity and her brother Mark. After Mark’s sheltered workshop closed in 2016,  meaningful work activities came to an end for him. Mark is not capable of participating in a mainstream work environment, Patty says.

COFAR and our members plan to testify at the hearing. We haven’t been  consulted by the Subcommittee as part of its review, which began last spring and involved meetings with “disability advocates, employers, employees, and other stakeholders,” according to the hearing notice.

So on October 4, when we heard about the hearing, we posed questions in an email to the office of Representative Josh Cutler, chair of the Subcommittee and vice chair of the Children and Families Committee. Those questions were the following:

  • Does the Subcommittee recognize that there are some persons who do not have the capability to succeed in the mainstream workforce, or does the Subcommittee take the  position that all persons, no matter how profoundly intellectually disabled, can handle jobs in the mainstream workforce?
  • Is the Subcommittee also looking to promote work opportunities for individuals in their community-based day programs funded by the Department of Developmental Services?
  • Does the Subcommittee have data on the availability of mainstream workforce jobs for persons with I/DD? We have long been concerned that not nearly enough of those jobs exist even for those who are capable of doing them.
  • Is the Subcommittee aware that the Legislature has apparently never appropriated the level of funding sought by the Baker administration for training and other services to help prepare former sheltered workshop participants for mainstream work settings? If so, has the funding for that transition so far been adequate?
  • Does the Subcommittee support the continued payment of subminimum wages to persons with I/DD in order to enable them to get work opportunities either in mainstream or DDS settings?

In an email in response to us, Rep. Cutler declined to respond to our questions; but he did say they were “great questions” and that he would be interested in meeting with us. We are in the midst of scheduling a date for that meeting.

We have discussed employment issues involving people with I/DD in numerous blog posts and in legislative testimony since 2014 when the administration of then Governor Deval Patrick began closing sheltered workshops for persons with I/DD throughout the state.

The sheltered workshops were settings in which DDS clients did small assembly jobs and other piecework activities provided by area businesses. The participants usually received a nominal wage.

Many family members and guardians strongly supported the workshops; but the Patrick and then Baker administrations held to an ideology that the workshops “segregated” the participants from non-disabled workers, and that the participants would all be better off in mainstream, “integrated” job settings.

Here are some of our findings from our involvement with these issues over the past five years:

  • Starting in 2013, the Patrick administration worked closely with corporate DDS providers to close the sheltered workshops over the objections of the families of many of the participants. In doing so, the providers falsely claimed that the workshops did not allow for “community inclusion.” The providers also falsely claimed that the federal government was forcing all sheltered workshops to close in the state.
  • As of 2018, it was clear that the promise of the replacement of sheltered workshops in Massachusetts with mainstream integrated employment was not being realized. An unknown number of former sheltered workshop participants were being left without work of any kind in their DDS-funded day programs.
  • The position of Senator Elizabeth Warren and many others against the payment of subminimum wages to people with I/DD has made it even harder for those persons to find the kind of work they had previously enjoyed doing.

Patty Garrity is the sister of one of those former workshop participants who has been left without work opportunities. Her brother Mark is not able to work in a competitive, mainstream setting.

Garrity said she plans to testify at the October 22 Subcommittee hearing. “I want to explain that there are individuals like my brother Mark and his peers who are not minimum wage candidates,” she wrote in an email.  “There is still a huge void in Mark’s day and it is not going well…..going on 4 years now that I have been waiting for them to improve upon this and it is not happening.  Mark is happy to be with his peers, but all he is doing is shredding paper and he is bored.”

We hope the Subcommittee will pay close attention to the experience of Mark Garrity and others who have been left behind in the wake of the sheltered workshop closures.

Moreover we hope the Subcommittee does or will recognize that, as with so many other issues involving persons with I/DD, one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to employment.

There are many people for whom the mainstream, competitive workforce is not suitable. Their choices and the choices of their families and guardians should be respected.

  1. Lynn Royal
    October 8, 2019 at 8:23 pm

    Do you have a link to the legislative subcommittee who is taking up the important and eloquent task of how to best provide ‘safe work environments’ for I/DD adult/children who do best with unskilled type tasks, which allow them to be with their peers?

  2. Carol ODonnell
    October 9, 2019 at 11:41 pm

    I really thought I was done fighting this battle about the closing of the workshops. A group of us from Newburyport fought to get HD 88 passed. We felt like we were the only ones in the state who cared about the closing of the workshops and all it got us was a lot of grief from our provider about how we were complaining about them. I like where my daughter is but I want her to work. The workshop gave her and me a reason to get out of bed in the morning. She was a productive person. Now, if I had let her she would have been one of those handicapped people you see hanging around the food court of a mall. I don’t know what else to do. I don’t know how else to say that DDS made a big mistake. I hope you can go to this meeting and convince these legislators that a grave injustice was done to a lot of people and they need to make it right.

  3. October 10, 2019 at 10:44 pm

    Dear Folks I am confused Section 14 C provides a RIGHT to WORK for all disabled individuals. It is a Federal Right and so why wasn’t the State challenged in court when they took away the RIGHT to WORK? I do not understand? Please call me Tom Spellman 414 403 1341

    • Anonymous
      October 11, 2019 at 12:45 am

      Could this be ARC’s handiwork?
      Lynn Royal

      • October 18, 2019 at 11:24 pm

        Dear Lynn Royal Why would ARC point out that Section 14 C provides a RIGHT to WORK?? Call me 414 403 1341 Tom Spellman Central Time

      • Lynn Royal
        October 18, 2019 at 11:41 pm

        Tom, I am In AZ at the moment & the 3 hr difference in central time, narrows the window of opportunity to call.
        ARC has the legislature by the pocketbook. They are a huge influence. They clearly have a conflict of interest, as they are also a provider agency. They are the authority listened to, not you and not me. You may have some clout with your 14(C) which I gather must be a mandate for the under 22 sector. Please correct me if I got that wrong. Since my son is over 22, he is not protected by any mandate. That is what is needed Nationally.
        My number, if you wish to call is 508 480 0569. I welcome your comments. Thanks. Lynn

  4. October 15, 2019 at 7:28 am

    I asked my 42 year old ID friend for his suggestions on improving his DDS funded Day Program. He is interested in meaningful job opportunities but he would also like to be offered more community trips during the week. He did say however, the program is continuously short staffed so not much can really happen. This leads me to conclude our expectations of more meaningful day program opportunities are unrealistic given the fact that these programs are continuously understaffed.

  5. Tom Rickels
    October 15, 2019 at 1:28 pm

    Although I am from Ohio, I would like to applaud COFAR staff for bringing up this discussion that should be occuring on a national level. Individual’s with IID are not obtaining jobs at the rate experts claimed. As of 2016, nationwide the average was 19% of people with IID obtaining jobs. When experts claim everyone work, there is a great amount of territory to cover.

    Washington State does not have 87% employment of people with IID as was exposed in a JLAC study in 2017. Vermont is up to 48% employment but people are only working an average of 8 hours a week. This is not what was promised. The same thing happened in Massachusetts as is happening everywhere when sheltered workshops are eliminated.
    A few people go to communit employment, most go to segregated non-work facilties.

    In real research, when the data does not support the theory, you change the theory. In Supported Employment, you blame the data and everything else as holding you up.

    I believe people with IID and their families and trusted friends should be making their decisions, not professionals that dont even work with them. Just so you know, I don’t have anything to do with 14c settings.

    Tom Rickels, President, Ohio Waiver Network.

  6. October 15, 2019 at 6:41 pm

    No one has called me yet on 14 C Tom Spellman 414 403 1341

  7. Anonymous
    October 16, 2019 at 4:32 pm

    What is 14(c) and why is that important?

  8. October 18, 2019 at 11:32 pm

    Section 14 (c) of the Fair Labor Act of 1938 grants a RIGHT to all disabled individuals to work for less than the minimum wage. As you may know the productivity of many disabled individuals is lower, hence the reduced wage. There is no subsidy in the financial contract between the Company who the work is being done for and the WorkShop so the wage is real.

    • Lynn Royal
      October 18, 2019 at 11:52 pm

      Just so you all know, the OLMSTEAD act provides families to choose where their loved one can live. But that has been violated by the very agency who is suppose to uphold it.

      • October 19, 2019 at 6:34 am

        Good morning Lynn I am the Wisconsin rep for VOR – Voice of Reason so yes I know what the lying……… say about Olmsted. What I do not understand is why no one in Massachusetts went to Federal court to stop the State form “ending” a program that implemented the Federal RIGHT to WORK for all disabled individuals to work for less than the minimum wage.

  9. Anonymous
    October 19, 2019 at 12:16 pm

    Actually, tmspell, that’s not exactly accurate. Section 14(c) does not grant a right to work to disabled persons, but rather permits an employer, after certification and when certain conditions are met, to pay less than federal minimum wage. U.S. Department of Labor.

    • October 19, 2019 at 6:30 pm

      Original language from 1938 Sec 14. The Administrator, to the extent necessary in order to prevent curtailment of opportunities for employment shall by regulation or orders provide for

      (2) the employment of individuals whose earning capacity is impaired by age or physical or mental deficiency or injury, under special certificates issue by the Administrator, at such wages lower than the minimum wage….

      Hummmm SHALL provide for the employment of individuals ………… Translates into a RIGHT for a disabled person to work for wages lower than the minimum wage??

      I assume that we want RIGHTS to WORK for out disabled loved one as I call our adult children.

      Without this law NO disabled person would be allowed to WORK for less than the minimum wage. If it is not a RIGHT then what is it?? Tom Spellman

      • Anonymous
        October 20, 2019 at 9:24 am

        I respectfully disagree. You’re taking a phrase out of context. What happened to the (c)? What administrator? The issue there is not right to work, but establishes conditions under which some employees may be paid subminimum wages. That does not translate into a “right” to work. You need to include the meaning of the entire sentence, not just the words you like.

      • October 21, 2019 at 12:06 am

        Here is a little history of Section 14 (c)

        The Story of the Fair Labor Act of 1938 and the “special minimum wage” that it allows.

        The details are not clear, but from the record, from the actions taken it can be surmised that thoughtful people who were concerned for those less fortunate then themselves acted to not only protect those less fortunate but to enhance their lives.

        As the minimum wage debate was beginning in 1937 and early 1938 Francis Perkins, who was the Secretary of Labor, and others became concerned that a group of individuals, many disabled WW I veterans who were doing WORK would not be able to WORK any longer because the work they were doing would not be economically viable once the Law establishing the proposed minimum wage of twenty-five cents an hour was implemented.

        As the discussion progressed it was decided that a simple system, to be administrated by the Department of Labor (DOL), would be included in the Fair Labor Act of 1938. The final version of that is below.

        Sec 14. The Administrator, to the extent necessary in order to prevent curtailment of opportunities for employment shall by regulation or orders provide for

        (2) the employment of individuals whose earning capacity is impaired by age or physical or mental deficiency or injury, under special certificates issue by the Administrator, at such wages lower than the minimum wage….

        I do not have a copy of the Administrative Rules that were established.

        The Act was amended in 1986 when some of the rules were included into the Law itself.

        Sec 14

        (c)1 The Secretary, to the extent necessary in order to prevent curtailment of opportunities for employment shall by regulation or orders provide for the employment under special certificates of individuals … whose earning or productive capacity is impaired by age, physical or mental deficiency, or injury at wages which are

        (A) lower that the minimum wage…

        (5)(A) Notwithstanding any other provisions of this subsection, any employee receiving a special minimum wage …

        As noted there is no “sub minimum” wage as wages are called “special minimum wage”. If you are on our side why are you saying that a disabled person does not have the RIGHT to work for less than the minimum wage? What else is it.

        All people who qualify have a RIGHT to vote

        All disabled individuals have a RIGHT to WORK for less than the minimum wage or a special minimum wage.

        Unless you are on the other side it is good to have a RIGHT to WORK Part of the rest of the Law sets the RIGHT to work for the minimum wage as established by Congress from time to time. That is a RIGHT as well is it not?



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