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Friday, February 14, 2014

Economic and Social Parity Equals Power - Workers with Disabilities

On Wednesday March 12,  2014, President Obama signed an Executive Order raising the minimum hourly wage for all workers at the rate of $10.10 per hour, thus raising them from the poverty level. The order becomes effective on January 1, 2015. What is significant about the legislation is that the measure includes people with disabilities for the first time. Traditionally, the Department of Labor since the New Deal of FDR has allowed employers to work for subminimum wages below the accepted hourly wage standard, often around $5.00 an hour out of the belief that workers with disabilities, physical as well as intellectual, simply did not possess the stamina or basic knowledge to work competitively, a situation that is generally not true in the present time. For the federal government to tolerate the subminimum rate for over 40 decades, spoke volumes of how despite the rhetoric of inclusion and diversity, the disability community has traditionally been devalued by society that places a premium on fitness and an almost obsessive drive to reach reach the pinnacle of a chosen profession - in other words, the rat race! The Executive Order for the first time creates a baseline economic parity between a worker with a disability and his able-bodied counterpart. This gesture has been long overdue and should be applauded. I hope it is a harbinger of the trend towards full equality throughout all segments of the population. There may be a few kinks that will need to be ironed out during the implementation of the Order but if all stakeholders, employers in both government and private sectors collaborate harmoniously together, these bumps in the road will be minimized.

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