Disability community fights for higher wages

Published: Dec. 27, 2019 at 7:26 AM CST
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WASHINGTON (KAIT/GRAY DC) - Kyle Stumpf may be different from his co-workers, but at Papa John’s, he is treated and paid like any other employee.

"His biggest asset he brings is his amazing smile," Kyle's father Bill Stumpf said.

Workers with disabilities can qualify to be paid less than minimum wage, but the disability community is split on whether this helps or hurts them.

Kyle used to work at a sheltered workshop, businesses staffed exclusively by those with disabilities. He made only $3 an hour.

"He had a place to go every day, he was paid a little bit and he was safe," Bill said.

But over time, the Stumpf's began to feel the federal labor law, which allows people with disabilities to be paid based on a productivity formula, held their son back.

"It is the civil rights issue for the disability community right now," Alison Barkoff with the Center for Public Representation said. "People with disabilities are not worth less and we cannot have laws that say that.”

Barkoff argues Congress should phase out the special minimum wage and sheltered workforces, like Alaska and New Hampshire did.

Bill and Kyle came to Washington, D.C. to push for the same thing, and to show off Kyle's success.

But not all advocates for the disability community are convinced that is a good idea.

“What would happen is people absolutely would lose their jobs over time because there is an economic factor to it. And the people with the most significant disabilities would have fewer opportunities," Kate McSweeny, vice president of government affairs and general counsel at ACCSES, said.

If the House Democrats get their way, federal minimum and special minimum wage workers may get a massive raise to $15 an hour.

But that appears unlikely to gain traction in the Republican Senate or with President Donald Trump.

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