Subminimum wages are a violation of our human rights

Subminimum wages are a violation of our human rights

by Andrea Zuber, CEO, The Arc Minnesota

The Arc Minnesota celebrates the establishment of a task force to phase out subminimum wage.

The practice of paying people less than minimum wage goes against our core mission to promote and protect the human rights of individuals who have disabilities, so we were honored to advocate alongside leaders in Minnesota’s disability justice movement who worked to make this happen.

ALL individuals who have disabilities—no matter their disability type and support needs—deserve the opportunity to explore, find, and keep jobs that provide personal fulfillment and help build wealth. To do so, we must:

  • Pay people livable wages so they can escape the cycle of poverty perpetuated by our current service system.
  • Promote customized jobs that build on each individual’s unique talents and interests.
  • Help people build careers in inclusive workplaces, alongside others who do and do not have disabilities; and
  • Create innovative and creative partnerships with Minnesota’s business community

Fostering collaborative relationships with business owners large and small across the state will be critical. When people who have disabilities are included as part a rich, diverse workforce, the return on investment is real.

Accenture, Disability:IN, and the American Association of People with Disabilities found that companies  leading in disability employment and inclusion had, on average, twice the net income, 28% higher revenue, and 30% higher profit margins over a four-year period. These returns should be especially compelling for the many business owners currently striving to fill gaps in their workforce, who should build on the unique skills of people who have disabilities for their talent pool.

It is time to acknowledge and respect people who have disabilities for their many contributions to our workforce, economy and society as a whole. Furthermore, we must honor their wholeness and inherent value. At The Arc, we are working to build a Movement that raises awareness about the strength, resilience, and capacity of people who have disabilities. Disability is part of the rich diversity of human experience, in which many people find their power—not in spite of it.

Phasing out subminimum wages and promoting employment of people who have disabilities is just the beginning, and must be layered within the broader effort to honor disability identity, build belonging in community, advance social change, and realize disability justice.