In 2022, California is set to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour. As of now, not all workers in the state will qualify for the raise.
Since 1938, employers in California have been able to apply for a certificate that has allowed them to pay employees with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage.
What You Need To Know
- Since 1938, California employers have been able to apply for a certificate that has allowed them to pay employees with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage
- SB 639 would end the subminimum wage by prohibiting employers from paying workers with disabilities less than the state's minimum wage
- More than 5,000 California workers with disabilities who are employees at sheltered workshops and get paid as little as 15 cents an hour
- SB 639 passed the Senate with a bipartisan 31-2 vote and is now on its way to the Assembly
"It's not really fair that you're getting treated like less of a person than other people are," said Michael Pugliese, who used to make around $2 an hour at his previous job working as an electronic assembler.
Pugliese, who is on the autism spectrum and now works at Lucky Penny's Dog, said he's grateful his new employer treats him like the rest of his colleagues.
"He came in here and put himself out there and showed me he can do the work. He's proved his place here every day that he's here," said Chris Vaquerano, owner of Lucky Penny's.
State Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles, introduced Senate Bill 639, which would phase out the 14(c) certificate program established in 1938. The program was intended to provide job opportunities to veterans with disabilities.
"This program was established under the Roosevelt administration with arguably good intentions; war veterans who developed physical and mental disabilities from combat came home from abroad and struggled to find employment in the manufacturing economy," Durazo said during a committee hearing.
Durazo claims the program has exploited labor and create segregated workplaces.
According to the senator's office, more than 5,000 Californians with disabilities are employees at sheltered workshops and get paid as little as 15 cents an hour.
Oregon, Texas, Nevada, Maryland, New Hampshire and Alaska have already eliminated the subminimum wage for people with disabilities.
"The fact that it is legal to pay those with a disability less than minimum wage is disgraceful and a blatant violation of their civil rights. This is the year we end this outdated and unjust practice in California," Durazo said.
SB 639 would end the subminimum wage by prohibiting employers from paying workers with disabilities less than the state's minimum wage.
"I think it's good. Everyone should be valued as a whole person, not just as a divided person," Pugliese said.
However, some bill opponents worry employers will not hire people with disabilities if the law changes.
"We cannot and should not hide behind false assumptions that all people working under 14(c) today will be able to successfully transfer to minimum wage employment with the current resources we have available," said John Bolle, executive director of VistAbility, a nonprofit that provides services to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
As for Pugliese, he said he hopes to see SB 639 become law and wants more people in his shoes to be given a chance to be paid fairly.
SB 639 passed the Senate with a bipartisan 31-2 vote and is now on its way to the Assembly.
If passed in the Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom, California would phase out the 14(c) program by 2025.
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