Disability Network West Michigan to Partner with Muskegon’s Subminimum Wage Employers May 6

On May 6, 2016, Disability Network West Michigan will host the DisCover Muskegon Resource Fair. Billed as an event “on the topic of competitive, integrated employment”, this event is – in fact – an opportunity for Michigan’s subminimum wage employers to line their pockets by exploiting people with significant disabilities.

Muskegonites with significant disabilities – beware! You are not the audience – you are the product being sold to Michigan’s subminimum wage employers.

Screenshot - DisCover Muskegon Resource Fair - You're Invited! Image: people standing in Lake Michigan with signs that spell out "Love Muskegon"The scam: Subminimum wage employment is very lucrative for the businesses that exploit this clearly outdated and discriminatory practice. Here’s how it works. When Michigan Rehabilitation Services declares a person “unemployable”, they become eligible to work for a subminimum wage employer. Those employers then approach group homes, which are happy to force their inhabitants to leave during the day so that they do not have to pay skilled nursing staff. Often, the individual has no choice because their legal rights have been removed through Michigan’s abusive guardianship process. Then, the employer charges Medicaid thousands of dollars to provide “job training”. People with significant disabilities are often placed in back rooms and forced to complete tasks that are nearly impossible. Their failure is then used to justify a subminimum wage and an infinite loop of “training”. This is presented as a service provided to the individual. So not only are people with significant disabilities forced to work for subminimum wages while non-profit executives walk away with obscene salaries – we’re also expected to be thankful for the opportunity. 

When the Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act was passed into law in 2015, strict requirements were placed on subminimum wage employers. No longer can they legally keep people with significant disabilities isolated in back rooms for decades on end while raking in millions of dollars earmarked for job training.

Because of these new restrictions on the length of time new admissions can work for subminimum wages, these businesses are desperate to fill their roles with new subminimum wage employees they can exploit until the clock runs out.

That is why Michigan Rehabilitation Services is paying Disability Network West Michigan to host a “Resource Fair” billed as an event “on the topic of competitive, integrated employment” sponsored by Muskegon’s subminimum wage employer: Goodwill Industries of West Michigan.

For each “job” placement, Disability Network West Michigan collects a fee.

Graphic: Don’t be fooled! Community Rehabilitation Organization Equals Subminimum Wage EmployerDisability Network West Michigan also hopes to convince local businesses to hire people with disabilities. Why, then, are they allowing subminimum wage employers and Michigan Rehabilitation Services to control the dialogue on disability employment?

Centers for Independent Living across the country are working to end submminimum wages. Why is the Muskegon CIL partnering with the businesses exploiting our community?

Centers for Independent Living are funded by taxpayer dollars to engage in disability-led advocacy. We must ask ourselves why the people controlling our Center for Independent Living are unwilling to accept Independent Living values – and the answer is glaringly obvious. Time after time, our supposedly consumer controlled, community-based, cross-disability CIL chooses profits over people.

The non-disabled people controlling our CIL do not engage in disability-led advocacy (as required by law) because it doesn’t benefit them. Money benefits them – that’s why they’re totally willing to partner with vocational rehabilitation and subminimum wage employers but can’t be bothered to meet with representatives of their local disability community.

Please take a stand against subminimum wages by boycotting this event. If you do attend, ask Disability Network the tough questions: why is our Center for Independent Living partnering with subminimum wage employers while refusing to meet with representatives from the disability community?

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