14 C Increases Options for People with Disabilities

Over the past several years there has been a growing misinterpretation of Sheltered Workshops in the United States.

How does society perceive this option?

Here are some of the headlines that have sparked the conversation:

“Lawmakers work to end subminimum wages for people with disabilities.”

“Many People With Disabilities Are Being Paid Way Below the Minimum Wage, and It’s Perfectly Legal.”

“New Bill would phase out subminimum wage model for people with disabilities.”

In this weeks blog post we would like to educate our readers on what 14C is and why this is an important option for our population.

Inroads to Opportunities is a Vocational Rehabilitation Center located in Roselle, New Jersey. We work with individuals with disabilities to help prepare them for a life of wellness, independence and employment. Inroads provides transition from classroom to career for high school students with disabilities, employment readiness training, evaluations, mental health partial care to individuals recovering from chronic illness, resume boosting certification programs (Servsafe, Janitorial, Osha Forklift), Employment services for 120+ people working in the community and Extended Employment (Assembly Services Division). Our agency also owns Railside Cafe in Fanwood, NJ; an integrated employment option for people with disabilities who are qualified to work in the fast paced restaurant business.

Since 1959 we started our journey with 4 program participants. The Occupational Center of Union County was started with the mission to provide vocational training to people with disabilities who needed a place to go, which wasn’t limited to the four walls in their homes.

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What is 14 C and why are lawmakers fighting to remove this option?

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 created a provision known as 14C. F.L.S.A. permitted employers to pay less than minimum wage to workers with disabilities in order to help them gain entry into the workforce. Employees with disabilities in sheltered workshops are paid a commensurate wage based upon a time study. Wages are based on productivity.

Lawmakers have been increasingly vocal about phasing out 14C and the sheltered workshops, deeming them an unethical option for people with disabilities.

“I don’t think most Americans know that this kind of discriminatory treatment is perfectly legal, but I’ll bet that if they did, they’d agree that individuals with disabilities ought to be paid fairly for their work.” Senator Elizabeth Warren.

In an article posted in 2018, David Ordan stated, “As such, it is a myth to say that paying subminimum wages to workers with disabilities leaves them vulnerable to exploitation and keeps them out of the general employment market, as claimed by Senator Warren D-Mass.) at a Senate Health Committee Hearing in Oct. 2017. She continues to argue this point to this day.

 Furthermore, it is not true that employers across the country are using this (commensurate wage) waiver to acquire cheap labor instead of paying minimum wage for the same work and performance as able-bodied workers.

The truth is that the vast majority of “employers” making use of this waiver are in fact, sheltered workshops, rather than private employers. Based on April, 2015 data from Wages and Hours Division of the Department of Labor, 2,820 entities in the United States hold Section 14(c) subminimum wage certificates. 89 percent are sheltered workshops. “

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What are the consequences of phasing out 14 C?

There is a one-size-fits-all perspective that by removing the sheltered workshop model it will increase competitive employment options for people with disabilities. Unfortunately this could not be any further from the truth.

There are thousands of individuals with disabilities who work in sheltered employment across the United States. Many of them would be forced to return home and await an alternative employment service or day program. The unintended consequences are countless because not only does this diminish employment options, it affects the participants self esteem and confidence that is so fragile in the lives of our most vulnerable population.

“To cite one example, Maine ordered a phase-out of disabled workshops starting in 2008. Two-thirds of those onetime employees were unable to find other paid positions, according to a June 2015 study by George Washington University, and enrollment in daycare and other programs soared to 3,178, from 550. “ - Ordan, The Hill, 2018.

A Measure of Success: Every Job has Dignity!

Phasing out 14C is resulting in thousands of people moving into day programs that are not employment focused. While there are many social benefits to Day Habilitation, it in a sense removes an employment setting and replaces it with a program that creates no source of income for its participants.

Sheltered Workshops were never designed to be a dead end employment option, however for a percentage of our population this is a job that they can handle in a safe environment.

It is a measure of success to come home with a paycheck, make friends at our agency, build self-esteem, develop relationships and learn about the world of work. This is unfortunately the bigger picture that is not being represented.

At Inroads we give our program participants the confidence that they can pursue competitive community employment. Each person is different and faces a separate set of challenges. Sometimes physical, sometimes mental and often both.

Lawmakers are pushing for “Raise the Wage,” which will force employers to move to a $15 minimum wage by 2024. This is yet another barrier to employment for people with disabilities.

Automation in the workplace is also replacing the workforce with robotic technology. Companies are investing in these technologies to increase profitability and reduce labor costs.

How will this affect our population?

We would like you to weigh in on your thoughts on our Blog post this week. Please comment and share this post.

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Written by Bryan Hansen

#wearethecommunity #myjobmychoice #lookatthebiggerpicture

A-Team New Jersey Advocates for Disability Rights

In 2018, Inroads to Opportunities helped bring A-Team to New Jersey.

We joined forces with 12 states including Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Arkansas, Delaware, South Dakota and Utah to help this grassroots movement. With the goal of uniting persons with diverse abilities and their family members, Inroads took part in a Social Media storm, which took place on April 24th, 2018.

We asked our 250+ workforce to wear green and we filmed them chanting, “my work my choice,” to blast out on Social Media.

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Vocational Rehabilitation Centers across the country are fighting to keep 14C sheltered workshops an available option for people with disabilities. The A-Team movement is vital in fighting for employment options for our population.

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Inroads to Opportunities will be a major voice for A-Team New Jersey and will continue to educate our participants and their families through action alerts and social media.

Members of A-Team New Jersey with Assemblyman Clifton at the New Jersey Statehouse.

Members of A-Team New Jersey with Assemblyman Clifton at the New Jersey Statehouse.

Assemblyman Troy Singleton with A-Team New Jersey.

Assemblyman Troy Singleton with A-Team New Jersey.

Inroads employment success and disability advocate Sara F. represented New Jersey at the Capitol in Washington D.C. Spring 2019.

Inroads employment success and disability advocate Sara F. represented New Jersey at the Capitol in Washington D.C. Spring 2019.

A-Team New Jersey advocates for disability rights in Washington D.C. in April 2019.

A-Team New Jersey advocates for disability rights in Washington D.C. in April 2019.

ADVOCACY:

Organize efforts to support individuals with diverse abilities and their rights.

  • Educate Government Officials

  • Action Alerts

  • Petition Drives

AWARENESS:

Promote the accomplishments and everyday obstacles overcome by persons with diverse abilities and their family members to ensure their authentic stories are shared throughout the community

  • Social Media

  • Video Testimonials

  • Radio/TV promotion

ADVERTISEMENT:

Provide both peer support and organizational feedback to meet the current and future needs of persons with diverse abilities.

  • Network Grassroots Advocacy Website

  • Learn and share Knowledge

  • Forums and team meetings

Inroads Participant Advisory Committee met with New Jersey Ombudsman for People with Disabilities .

Inroads Participant Advisory Committee met with New Jersey Ombudsman for People with Disabilities.

We hope you join us in the effort to increase employment options for people with disabilities. You can be the voice that helps change lives of our most vulnerable population.

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Written by: Bryan Hansen

#myworkmychoice

Inroads Casino Royale Fundraiser 2019 ~ 60th Year Diamond Jubilee

SAVE THE DATE!!!

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With your help, we can surpass our $17,300 net result from Casino Night 2018.

2019 marks our 60th year in business under our legal name Occupational Center of Union County. In 1959 our agency started with the purpose of creating opportunities for individuals with disabilities through vocational training and employment support. From our humble beginnings we have grown to support 400 individuals with disabilities per year.

In a world that too often counts out individuals for what they are not capable of doing; Inroads teaches people with disabilities that anything is possible with hard work and the right support system.

Our Casino Night Fundraiser this year will have a James Bond Theme. Since this is our 60th year providing community supports we will celebrate with a diamond jubilee. Since they say, “diamonds are forever,” our vision is that our agency will be here for many years to come.

Scenes from last years event:

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See You On October 18th, 2019!

Mark your calendars!


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Written by Bryan Hansen

#diamond #jubilee #ocuc #makingadifference

What does Community Vocational Rehabilitation mean to the people we support?

Every week our Inroads Newsletter Group has the opportunity to write content for upcoming internal newsletters. This past week we asked each one of our writers to touch on why they feel Inroads is important to them.

Here is what they said:

(Please note, some of our participants asked to remain anonymous).

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“I need to live in a multilayered community. There is the community of my home family, my community of Alcoholics Anonymous and of course my community of Inroads. I need a variety of groups that I belong to. Each group to address different needs in my life. Each different group reflects from different needs in my life.”

-Anonymous

“Inroads is a great place to be. I learned how to live with my illness instead of fighting with it. Also useful skills for just living day to day. I’m also given an opportunity to make some pocket cash as well. I hope this place stays for a long time.”

-Ramon A.

“Why I like to work here at Inroads is because it is positive to work here and share my own ideas with the public. Inroads is a great opportunity to belong and participate. To be social and learn to be independent, work and share.”

-Joan R.

“Inroads is a great place to be. A lot of people to talk to instead of staying home. Also I have good counselors who help me out when I need help. They have great workshops to work in, a cafeteria where the food is great, good groups, which help you out like gym class and many areas to work at in program. It is very hard to work in integrated employment, which is why we have this support.They also have good job coaches.”

-Paul D.S.

“I like Inroads because they make me happy. I have good counselors who help me when I need help. I have a great workshop and love the groups.”

-Tyquannah V.

“I have to go to program at Inroads because I need experience. When I went to get my taxes done, Wayne (tax aid) asked me if I want to support the workshops and keep them open at Inroads. I said yes. I like Self-Advocacy, Newsletter Group, Cooking Group and Bingo. Inroads helps me enjoy my hobbies, which are reading, writing singing and acting.”

-Debby G.

“Sheltered employment can be remedial but it leads to stability. The participants who move on to competitive employment go on to be quite successful and secure.”

-Michael C.

“Inroads is very positive. The jobs adjust to the skill of the participant and our supervisors take the time to explain the process of the working products.”

-Janet L.

“I like to come to Inroads because I enjoy each of my groups. I like to discuss the different topics in our groups and express how they make me feel. I enjoy doing exercises in the gym including the tapes from Jillian Michaels, Richard Simmons, Zumba and walking on the treadmill. I enjoy doing work in the workshops and helping my friends complete a job.”

-Rosalyn W.


“Hello my name is Eric and I want to tell you why I love to work at Inroads to Opportunities. I love the different jobs that they send us from different companies. It’s cool when we help each other with the job and learn how to do it. I think it’s great that there’s so many people our program helps out. Some people learn tasks in a snap. Some need more time learning stuff. I love the special groups we have here like newsletter. My favorite parties are the Inroads Halloween and Christmas Dance.”

-Eric P.

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Written by Bryan Hansen

#myworkmychoice