Getting a boost or getting the boot?
JANESVILLE — Gov. Scott Walker, in his recent State of the State address, said he plans to push a new initiative called “A Better Bottom Line” that is geared toward getting more Wisconsin businesses to hire people with disabilities like Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy and mental illness.
The governor proposes spending $800,000 by mid-2015 to expand training programs, and local organizations are excited by the new initiative.
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Regardless of the renewed attention, groups like KANDU Industries in Rock County and VIP Services in Walworth County have been hard at work on the issue for years.
Of increasing concern is a bill introduced in the House of Representatives that would make it nearly impossible for groups like KANDU or VIP to keep their employees on the job.
The Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act, introduced last year by Republican Mississippi Congressman Gregg Harper, would phase out special wage certificates under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 under which individuals with disabilities may be employed at subminimum wage rates.
Opponents of what many still called sheltered workshops feel that they subject people with disabilities to unfair circumstances, primarily unjust wages, and they feel that they would be better served by being fully integrated into regular jobs in the community.
If you ask Gary Bersell, executive director at KANDU, he even finds the term “sheltered workshops” outdated.
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