TASH Asks Senate to Strike Section 511 from Workforce Investment Act

On July 31, the Senate HELP Committee passed the Workforce Investment Act Reauthorization (S. 1356), which includes several provisions that TASH is pleased to see, including an extension of supported employment to 24 months, and the inclusion of customized employment and Discovery as fundable services. However, TASH and several of its allies in the disability community hold that Section 511 of this legislation, as currently written, places youth with significant disabilities at greater risk of being unnecessarily placed in sheltered workshops and/or paid subminimum wage despite their potential to participate in the general workforce. Because of this, TASH is asking that Section 511 be struck from the Senate version of WIA Reauthorization. TASH is encouraging members and supporters to make their voice heard.

Please contact your Senators (http://beta.congress.gov/members) with the following message:

Please strike section 511 from the Senate version of WIA reauthorization (S. 1356) and work to ensure that TASH’s key principles are maintained.

This WIA Fact Sheet lays out those principles

Background

The controversy over Section 511 goes back to 2011 when reauthorization of WIA, long overdue, was last attempted. Several articles have been written since to support each side of the controversy. First, Sam Bagenstos, former Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division; now, professor of law, University of Michigan, penned Section 511 is Not a Step Forward, providing a legal analysis explaining why Section 511 will make entry into subminimum wage more likely, not less.

Bagenstos’ main points were the chief concerns expressed by TASH and our colleague members of the Collaboration to Promote Self Determination (CPSD) (see this letter). CPSD Executive Board members are all from disability-run or parent-run organizations.

Curt Decker, Executive Director of the National Disability Rights Network countered with The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good, taking a position the Section 511 represents incremental gains, a position that TASH cannot support.

Anil Lewis of the National Foundation of the Blind, one of the chief opponents of Section 511, contributed a blog post, Good is Simply Not Good Enough.

Finally, Dr. Frederick Schroeder, former Commissioner of the Rehabilitative Services Administration, wrote Don’t Sabotage the Rehabilitation Act. His assessment is that Section 511 “will simply make the rehabilitation system complicit in the exploitation of disabled workers from the time they are old enough to leave school—or possibly earlier—until they die.” (read it here)

The subminimum wage is discriminatory and the use of it is a failure. It’s time to stop supporting this failed system. Contact your Senators today!

View the TASH Position Statement on Subminimum Wage.