APSE is concerned that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) has appointed Bob Brown to the National Council on Disability (NCD). Mr. Brown is a strong supporter of subminimum wages and segregated housing for people with disabilities.
NCD, an independent federal agency charged with the important role of serving as the voice of people with disabilities in the federal government, needs to accurately represent people with disabilities. Due to a new provision in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), four NCD Council Members whose terms are about to expire will be replaced by appointments made by the Senate Majority Leader, the Senate Minority Leader, the Speaker of the House, and the House Minority Leader. Additionally, WIOA has reduced the NCD’s membership from fifteen to nine Council Members. This means that it is critical that the nine Council Members are committed to ensuring that the civil rights of people with disabilities are fullfilled through a persumption of competence and a committment to independence and community integration.
Mr. Brown, who is not a person with a disability, is the Foundation President at Opportunity Village, an organization that holds a 14(c) certificate and pays its employees with disabilities subminimum wages. Additionally, Opportunity Village is developing congregate, segregated housing for individuals with disabilities.
In 2013, Mr. Brown stated in an article fighting for the subminimum wages he pays his employees, “Some utopian academics would like to eliminate Section 14(c). They believe people with severe disabilities are being unfairly exploited and that all workers should be paid at least the minimum wage. On the surface, this position seems reasonable. Upon rational examination, it is nonsense.”
APSE and many other disability rights organizations, including the National Council on Disability, have advocated and submitted Position Papers calling for a responsible phase-out of subminimum wage for all people with disabilities. NCD has provided continued support for the carefully thought out plan of phasing out subminimum wages by ensuring that the national systems change movement is based on the notion that employment in the community is the first and preferred option for service receipents — i.e. Employment First. However, we are concerned that Employment First will lose a strong federal voice in support of our movement if NCD no longer represents the civil rights of people with disabilities.
We urge the Disability Community, particularly in Nevada, to reach out to Senator Reid to educate him about the implications of appointing Bob Brown to NCD.