The year of 2009 found the minimum wage in America reaching $7.25 per hour, something I personally would never have expected to witness as a teenager who made $2.75 an hour while flipping burgers at the local burger joint. For greater than three-hundred people with mental health disabilities in state-run homes in Iowa, even the $2.75 per hour I made back in the early 1980's would be a fortunate turn of events. Understand that these people with disabilities made, on average, $0.60 cents per hour for their work, with one employee making a scant $0.11 cents for an hour of work in the year 2009.
No matter what nation on planet Earth you happen to be in on this day, the wages these workers with disabilities made comprise sweatshop-level earnings. Amazingly, the practice of paying people with disabilities such piddling wages is actually legal, not only in the state of Iowa where these particular people with disabilities are being exploited, but across the entire nation of America. The notion behind the law is to provide employers with an incentive to hire people with disabilities, who might otherwise not be able to perform tasks at the same level of performance as employees without disabilities, giving these employers the opportunity to pay employees with disabilities less per hour - far less.
Supporters of the law state that employers would not hire people with disabilities if they had to pay them the minimum wage. They claim that a paycheck gives people with disabilities self-esteem, even if it is not enough to live off of. Some of the people with disabilities these employers, 'pay,' live in group housing, giving these employers grounds to argue that their employees with disabilities cost of living is lower, so they do not rely on a paycheck. I guess the obscene profit margins being reaped by these employers does not figure into the picture anywhere.
The people with disabilities these employers are exploiting work providing everything from food services and janitorial services to delivery and laundry services. In other words, these employees with disabilities are providing the employers who are using them for what amounts to slave labor with valuable services. There isn't a single question in my mind that these employers are deliberately taking advantage of people with disabilities in order to gain a profit; they are greedy, and have no respect for the humanity of their employees.
Even if one of these employers is found to be in violation of wage laws where workers with disabilities are concerned, they are rarely asked to pay anything other than the wages owed to the employee. These employers are not asked to pay fines, interest, or damages, according to James Leonard. Mr. Leonard is a former attorney for the United States Department of Labor. Mr. Leonard also noted that there is almost a financial incentive to take a chance that they will not be caught because employers are rarely checked due to a lack of inspectors from the Department of Labor.
In one example, a Texas-based company named, Henry's Turkey Service, had allegedly been paying workers with disabilities $0.44 cents per hour for their labor. The company is being investigated for the alleged exploitation of dozens of employees with mental disabilities. The abuse by Henry's Turkey Service had gone on for more than thirty years. The company housed the men with disabilities who worked for them in a one-hundred and six year old bunkhouse which had been deemed unsafe by the state of Texas. No one has said whether or not these workers were forced to live in this derelict building, or if they were prevented from leaving either the scrappy quarters or the company.
Personally, the entire concept of money in relation to humanity needs to be re-examined. When people, with or without disabilities, work or provide a service they need to be compensated - despite the work or service provided. The work or service needs to translate into credit for goods and services. No matter what kind of work or service a person performs or provides, no matter whether or not a person experiences a form of disability, the work or service they provide needs to be equally compensated. Removal of money would remove the greed and corruption that has led to this kind of abuse of humanity.
The concept of work itself also needs to be re-examined by human societies. Every task a person performs that benefits another person, company, organization, or other entity needs to be deemed compensable. The tasks that people perform that benefit others need to be considered, 'work,' and duly rewarded through credit towards goods and services. 'X,' amount of service performed is equivalent to, 'X,' amount of credit towards goods and services, applied towards every single person - despite ability. Human societies cannot continue the placement of monetary value on human life.
Employers who pursue blatant abuse of people with disabilities must be found guilty of gross human rights violations. These employers must have their companies shut down, all profits seized, and given to the employees they have abused as compensation. The employers need to find themselves in prison as well. Such outright abusive treatment of human beings simply cannot be tolerated or justified in any way. Any laws that support this kind of activity must be taken off of the books immediately.