Teen Vogue, Labor Unions Want To End ‘Sub-Minimum Wage’ For Severely Disabled Workers. Here’s Why That’s A Bad Idea.

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Teen Vogue is at it again, publishing a column by a person whose bio describes them as a “writer and radical organizer” that amounts to a wish list of labor items from a Joe Biden administration.

The author, Kim Kelly, admits that such “pro-union, pro-worker” demands “seem unlikely under Biden’s stewardship” due to his support of corporations. She also claims President Donald Trump’s policies were “rabidly anti-worker,” even though real household income increased drastically and the economy boomed under Trump until the coronavirus hit. Nevertheless, Kelly insists Biden will be better for workers than Trump and proposes multiple things unions want.

Of particular note is Kelly’s claim that eliminating the sub-minimum wage for severely disabled workers would provide “real, tangible support to the most marginalized and vulnerable members of the working class.”

Labor unions who have been pushing for this elimination received some help from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights earlier this year. The Commission released a report siding with the labor unions in suggesting that we should eliminate the special minimum wage that ensures disabled persons can find work without competing against nondisabled persons.

Gail Heriot, the voice of reason on the Commission, dissented to the report, pointing out that after publication, the Commission received nearly 10,000 public comments, mostly from parents or relatives of severely disabled persons asking the Commission to keep the sub-minimum wage.

“Apparently, we are supposed to believe that Teen Vogue and the labor movement care more about the welfare of Down Syndrome workers than their own parents do,” Heriot wrote on Instapundit.

In her dissent, Heriot explained that the special minimum wage comes from Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act and was adopted in 1938 along with the federal minimum wage.

“Back then it was believed—no doubt correctly—that a federal minimum wage would cause many disabled persons to become unemployable. An exception was thus created. A limited number of employers would be permitted to obtain certificates authorizing them to pay disabled persons something less than the minimum wage. Under current law, how much less depends upon stringent tests of each such employee’s productivity, which must be conducted every six months,” Heriot wrote.

Further, she wrote, keeping Section 14(c) would allow disabled persons to choose to work in “sheltered workshops,” which hired the disabled for jobs they can handle at a reduced pay. As Heriot noted, it is entirely optional for the disabled to take the reduced pay for protected jobs. They are also free to find employment for minimum wage and higher where they would work alongside nondisabled persons.

Some disabled persons will be able to compete with nondisabled persons for the same jobs, but others will not, Heriot insisted. She noted that the Commission’s report “waits till page 99 (by which time nearly all Members of Congress have stopped reading) to mention that 98 per cent of the members of the public who submitted comments to the Commission support the continuation of Section 14(c).”

Heriot goes on to give an economics lesson: “[I]f the price of something is increased, the quantity demanded will tend to decrease.”

When Vermont eliminated sheltered workshops and the sub-minimum wage, disabled persons lost jobs. It took Heriot some coaxing to get a representative from the Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living to admit that was the case and that the disabled persons “decided that they were going to retire or arrange other services.” This meant putting them in a daycare, at taxpayers’ expense, rather than allowing them to make their own money and live their own lives.

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