I urge our lawmakers to consider the consequences of the recommended action (wage increase for fast-food workers) and to address the larger issue of a living wage for all New Yorkers — in particular, those working in human services supporting people with disabilities.–Mark Peters
Low wages are no accident–they are the result of deliberate government policy. Mark Peters, Executive Director of Able 2, a local agency serving the disabled, writes:
New York state is poised to increase the minimum wage for workers in the fast-food industry to $15 per hour. There is no doubt that these workers deserve to be paid a living wage; however, raising the minimum wage for only one sector of our workforce is unjust and shortsighted. Many workers in other fields will be left behind if this plan is implemented.
I believe the justification for an increase for fast-food workers is the disgrace of large, profitable corporations paying employs a wage that leaves them dependent on public assistance to make ends meet. It isn’t only private corporations that are at fault. NYS pay standards are equally disgraceful. Peters continues:
I represent hundreds of workers who provide support to people with disabilities living in group homes and in the community. They are providing care to some of our most vulnerable citizens. The starting hourly wage for these dedicated workers who do such challenging work is in the $9 to $11 range.
The wages paid to our direct care workers are directly linked to rates paid to our agency by New York state. These state-set rates do not allow for an increase in wages to compete with the wages proposed for fast-food workers. Recruitment and retention of qualified and responsible workers is our biggest challenge. This task will become much more difficult should the plan to increase the minimum wage for a single segment of the workforce be implemented.
According to the Elmira Star-Gazette article cited below, local officials gathered in Corning to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ADA, “American’s with Disabilities Act.” This article notes:
The Americans with Disabilities Act is intended to protect people with disabilities from discrimination and enable them to participate fully in the workforce and their communities. Its protections, which now cover an estimated 55 million Americans, extend to five key areas: employment, state and local government facilities and services, public accommodations, telecommunications, and transportation.
ADA can’t fulfill its promise if it is underfunded. In particular, promised care for the disabled will be compromised if wages paid to those workers dedicated to service remain low. It isn’t enough to send a representative to praise the ADA on its anniversary as Rep. Reed did. As Mark Peters noted, it is no accident that wages are low; government action to raise them is necessary.
© William Hungerford – July 2015