Thursday, May 27, 2010

Jill Wants A Job


AtWork! is actively pursuing vocational and career opportunities for Jill. Jill is a highly motivated individual who pays particularly close attention to detail. Her skills include production work in disassembling and re-assembling as well as light janitorial and drawing. She would excel at part-time work in a supportive environment. Her preference would be for employment in Bellevue, Issaquah or Mercer Island.

Jill has participated in AtWork!’s assessment and skills training program to prepare her for employment. Jill wants a job. If you know of an opportunity where Jill’s skills and abilities are a good job match, please contact Dennis Wajda at (425) 922-4873 or email at dennis@atworkwa.org.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Talent Has No Boundaries

The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy has unveiled the official theme for October's National Disability Employment Awareness Month: "Talent Has No Boundaries: Workforce Diversity INCLUDES Workers With Disabilities." The theme serves to inform the public that workers with disabilities represent a diverse and vibrant talent pool for hire.

Early announcement of the theme helps communities nationwide plan a series of events, some of which will continue throughout the year beginning in October, such as proclamations, public awareness programs and job fairs that showcase the skills and talents of workers with disabilities. This theme epitomizes Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis' commitment to "good jobs for everyone."

"The solutions and innovations applicable to the successful employment of workers with disabilities impact the entire workforce, including aging workers, injured workers, at-risk youth, women, people of color, and unemployed and underemployed workers," said Kathleen Martinez, assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy.

As background, Public Law 176, enacted by the Congress in 1945, designated the first week in October each year as "National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week." President Harry S. Truman designated the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities to carry out the Act. In 1962, the word "physically" was removed from the week's name to acknowledge the employment needs of all Americans with disabilities. Congress expanded the week to a month in 1988 and changed its name to "National Disability Awareness Month," which eventually evolved to its current name. The Labor Department's Office of Disability Employment Policy took over responsibility for National Disability Employment Awareness Month in 2001.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

New Resource for Employers: Disability Nondiscrimination Law Advisor

The Department of Labor has made a new online resource available to help employers determine which federal disability nondiscrimination laws apply to their business or organization. The Advisor also helps recipients of federal financial assistance understand their responsibilities under these laws.

The Advisor provides a customized list of federal disability nondiscrimination laws that may apply and links to detailed information that helps you understanding the requirements under these laws. Employees, job applicants, applicants for or participants in programs that receive federal financial assistance, and individuals receiving services from public entities may also find this Advisor helpful to learn more about their rights under these federal disability nondiscrimination laws. The Disability Nondiscrimination Law Advisor was developed by DOL's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP).

When you access the Advisor it guides you through a series of questions and creates a potential list of federal disability nondiscrimination laws that may apply to your business or organization. The links to these laws provide statutory and regulatory information and compliance assistance materials. The Advisor also provides guidance and links to other resources related to hiring and retaining employees with disabilities.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Even Individuals with the Most Significant Disabilities Can Work

Subminimum wages may have at one time been a valid and effective strategy for enhancing employment for people with disabilities, the evolution in disability rights and community employment makes the subminimum wage no longer necessary or acceptable. With proper planning, the right job match, the right supports, and right funding incentives, even individuals with the most significant disabilities can work successfully in the community at minimum wage or higher. For every individual, there are jobs and tasks we are good at and those we are ill-suited for. People with disabilities are no different.

Subminimum wage is based on the concept that level of productivity is the sole or primary criteria on which a business bases compensation and values a worker. This is a simplistic notion, not at all based on the realities of operating a business and managing employees, particularly in the 21st century economy.

Individuals are valued as employees for a wide range of abilities, gifts and talents: their customer service skills, their ability to get along with co-workers, their reliability, the quality of work, etc. The argument that the value of an employee should be solely based on speed is an outdated concept.

Community employment provides tremendous opportunities for people with disabilities to exercise self-determination and choice – through economic empowerment, the ability to choose from among a broad array of possible job and career options, and the opportunity to use skills and abilities in a way that the individual chooses and that best meets their specific needs.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

AtWork! Is Working Towards Eliminating Subminimum Wages

A national effort must be undertaken to improve the overall quality of community employment outcomes both in terms of individual outcomes and proper funding of services and long-term supports. The movement of individuals into non-work day facilities, instead of into community employment, is not an acceptable outcome of the phase out of subminimum wage.

AtWork! has for some time been working towards eliminating subminimum wages. Each year more and more clients are finding opportunities in the community to work at labor market wages, and those who are on a pathway to employment through exploration, volunteering and job trials, are participating in AtWork!’s enterprises for fewer days. Ultimately, those who work in our enterprises will be those for whom landscaping, packaging and assembly and work in our recycle enterprise is an appropriate vocation. There will be no need to pay subminimum wages. AtWork! is moving forward toward this goal before there is a Federal mandate to do so and is three years ahead of the national movement.

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Call for Phase Out of Subminimum Wage

Since establishment of the Federal minimum wage in 1938, a special minimum wage generally known as the “subminimum wage” has existed for individuals with disabilities. This provision allows employers, holding a 14(c) certificate from the US Department of Labor (DOL), to pay individuals with disabilities less than the federal or state minimum wage that is generally mandated for all other workers. Pay is related to the individual’s level of productivity, with the intent of paying individuals in proportion or commensurate to their productivity compared to workers without disabilities.

Currently there are approximately 5,600 employers who hold 14(c) certificates, employing approximately 425,000 individuals with disabilities at workshops and in group employment settings. Approximately 95% of these individuals are employed in sheltered workshops. Approximately ¾ of all workers receiving subminimum wages in sheltered workshops have an intellectual or developmental disability. More than half (54%) of workers in sheltered workshops earn less than $2.50 per hour, with 23% earning less than $1.00 per hour.

AtWork! supports the national movement calling for a phase out of this special subminimum wage provision. It should occur over time. No other minority group experiences this kind of discrimination. It needs to be gradual so that people aren’t harmed and alternative employment options can be developed or the businesses that employ them at subminimum and so they can figure out how to keep them working at minimum wage.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Does America Have a Sustainable Culture? – Part 3

Last in a series of excerpts from a speech delivered by AtWork! CEO, Chris Brandt, at the AtWork! 2010 fundraising breakfast, March 25th, 2010.

This week on the radio I listened to President Obama say: “It’s a new season in America”. Let’s make it a new season for people with disabilities, too. Citizens with disabilities should have the support they need to find and keep a job and to contribute to the productivity of a sustainable culture. Hundreds of young people with disabilities between the ages of 21 and 35 sit at home with nothing to do because the system has failed them. They were not one of the lucky ones to graduate with a job and a service provider. Their stories are much different than Darwin’s. They are stories of isolation, disappointment and dwindling hope. Our state legislature will provide funding for only ¼ of the students with disabilities who will graduate from high school in the next 2 years. Who will sustain the investment we have made in these talented young people? Will you?

One final sustainability question that didn’t get on the radio: How many breakfasts does it take to sustain a nonprofit? Just like your body needs the sustenance of a good breakfast everyday, AtWork! needs the on-going contributions of our circle of support and our cohorts in the movement, to sustain the vital work we do on behalf of people with disabilities everyday. Enjoy your breakfast; it will fuel you for the work of the day. Contribute generously; it will fuel AtWork! to sustain the jobs, the hopes, and the dreams of the people with disabilities you have met and heard about today. And who knows, one person, one job at a time, you just might help create a sustainable culture here in Bellevue, Issaquah, Seattle, King County, and beyond.

Together we can make our vision of a sustainable culture a reality.

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