Those who think the working poor are better off without a set minimum wage need look no further
than the estimated 420,000 mentally and physically disabled workers who can legally be paid well
under the federally mandated $7.25 an hour that covers most
working Americans.

While this Depression-era policy had good intentions – to give crippled returning veterans at the
time a shot at private-sector employment – it has become adopted largely by the very groups that
advocate for disabled people’s rights.

The program, known as Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, has become an
integral part of so-called sheltered workshops inside which disabled workers perform manual labor
tasks, such as laundry for Army bases.

Some families of these workers see this as a benevolent situation, a place for their handicapped
relatives to go to earn a stipend to supplement their Social Security and Medicaid support. Some
of the biggest disabled-rights umbrella groups, like United Cerebral Palsy, have affiliates that use
the program and claim they couldn’t run their non-profit workshops otherwise.

Defenders of the policy say some of these people are so severely disabled that they wouldn’t find
any work without the program and the sheltered workshops that use them.
Meanwhile, disabled people are three times more likely to live in poverty in the United States while
less than one in five of them participate in the workforce, according to the National Council on
Curtis Decker is trying to change that.


Tony Paulauski
Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423
815-464-1832 (OFFICE)
815-464-1832 (CELL)