Implications of the New Minimum Wage for Disabled Workers



Summary:

Finally, President Obama has signed an executive order that raises the current minimum wage of $7.25/hour to $10.10 for low-wage workers under federal contract, to be effective on January 1st, 2015, and this includes disabled workers.

However, this has caused much concern for advocates of disabled workers as it was not originally intended that people with disabilities working under federal contracts would benefit from the raise.

The failure to include people with disabilities who work for the federal government was met with great opposition, and those within the disability community advocated for federal workers with disabilities to be included in the President’s order. This “oversight” by the White House and the Labor Department before disability advocates ramped their voices signaled how dire it is for people with disabilities to be politically aware, and involved.

There are also the different arguments raising the pros and cons of a minimum wage increase.

An article reports that the CBO, a non-partisan group that analyzes congressional bills, analyzed the effects of increasing the minimum wage and concluded that it would increase the pay and family income for most low-wage workers. The increased earnings for low-wage workers would be $31 billion, by CBO’s estimate.

Another writes that with so many unemployed workers, the sensible economic policy would be to subsidize labor rather than raise the minimum wage. That’s because raising the minimum wage is the equivalent of taxing employers for the work done by their employees and giving the proceeds to the workers. And that works against employment, not in favor of it.

Whatever arguments there may be, perhaps it woud just be as well to see what this could immediately mean to disabled workers themselves. For those struggling to make ends meet, it may already mean a lot to tide them over, until they can find better paying jobs.

A fact sheet published in 2007, Minimum Wage Increase: What It Means for People with Disabilities, by the School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) at Cornell University, may be a useful guidance. As it says in its abstract, For people with significant disabilities who either earn the minimum wage or close to it, these changes present a wonderful opportunity to increase their income. At the same, there are some issues that people with disabilities may need to consider regarding the changes in minimum wage. The purpose of this fact sheet is to review how minimum wage increases are relevant for people with disabilities and provide guidance on how to deal with the impact of the minimum wage on benefits and other issues.

Comment:

While it is good to study the effects of a raise in the minimum wage for the long term, I think policy makers should be more concern about the people directly affected by the raise -- the disabled workers. Most of them are really poor and struggling, so any raise is always welcome by them as it is extra cash.

Why debate about long term more than immediate relief -- would be good while doing so to find ways to help them access better jobs thru additional skills training or less discrimination, giving them more equal opportunities. Also, doing this does not mean making the poor disabled workers become ever reliant on the government, as that is taking away their self-dignity and confidence.







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