Social Justice Monday – Bottom Dollars: How Working People with Disabilities Still Earn Far Less than the Federal Minimum Wage

Social Justice Monday – Bottom Dollars: How Working People with Disabilities Still Earn Far Less than the Federal Minimum Wage

November 7, 2016

When the Fair Labor Standards Act passed in 1938, it included a revolutionary civil rights protection: a minimum wage. American workers could no longer be exploited for their hard work with one huge exception: People with disabilities could be paid less – much less – than minimum wage. The law remains unchanged today. In 2016, nearly 250,000 working people are still legally paid less than the minimum wage – on average, less than $2 an hour.

Social Justice Monday featured a screening of the documentary, “Bottom Dollars”, which exposes the injustice and hardship suffered by working people with disabilities through personal stories and expert interviews. It also shows alternatives with competitive wages and community inclusion to the “sheltered workplaces” where workers with disabilities often labor. The screening was followed by a discussion of its legal and social implications with its co-producer Tina Pinedo.

Interested in learning more? Here are some related books from the Law Library:

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The Disability Rights Movement: From Charity to Confrontation

Doris Zames Fleischer
Frieda Zames

Law Library LAW-Culp Collection (3rd Floor – Range A)(HV1553.F58 2001)

Based on interviews with almost a hundred activists, this book provides a detailed history of the struggle for disability rights in the United States. It is a complex story of shifts in consciousness and shifts in policy, of changing focuses on particular disabilities such as blindness, deafness, polio, quadriplegia, psychiatric and developmental disabilities, chronic conditions (for example, cancer and heart disease), AIDS, and of activism and policymaking across disabilities.

Referring to the Americans with Disabilities Act as “every American’s insurance policy,” the authors recount the genesis of this civil rights approach to disability, from the almost forgotten disability activism of the 1930s, to the independent living movement of the 1970s, to the call for disability pride of the 1990s. Like other civil rights struggles, the disability rights movement took place in the streets and in the courts as activists fought for change in the schools, the workplace, and in the legal system. They continue to fight for effective access to the necessities of everyday life—to telephones, buses, planes, public buildings, restaurants, and toilets.

The history of disability rights mirrors the history of the country. Each World War sparked changes in disability policy and changes in medical technology as veterans without limbs and with other disabilities returned home. The empowerment of people with disabilities has become another chapter in the struggles over identity politics that began in the 1960s. Today, with the expanding ability of people with disabilities to enter the workforce and a growing elderly population, issues like longterm care are becoming increasingly significant at a time when HMOs are trying to contain health care expenditures. – From the Publisher


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Future of Disability in America

Institute of Medicine (U.S.), Committee on Disability in America
Marilyn J. Field
Alan M. Jette

Full Text Online

The future of disability in America will depend on how well the U.S. prepares for and manages the demographic, fiscal, and technological developments that will unfold during the next two to three decades.

Building upon two prior studies from the Institute of Medicine (the 1991 Institute of Medicine’s report Disability in America and the 1997 report Enabling America), The Future of Disability in America examines both progress and concerns about continuing barriers that limit the independence, productivity, and participation in community life of people with disabilities. This book offers a comprehensive look at a wide range of issues, including the prevalence of disability across the lifespan; disability trends the role of assistive technology; barriers posed by health care and other facilities with inaccessible buildings, equipment, and information formats; the needs of young people moving from pediatric to adult health care and of adults experiencing premature aging and secondary health problems; selected issues in health care financing (e.g., risk adjusting payments to health plans, coverage of assistive technology); and the organizing and financing of disability-related research.

The Future of Disability in America is an assessment of both principles and scientific evidence for disability policies and services. This book’s recommendations propose steps to eliminate barriers and strengthen the evidence base for future public and private actions to reduce the impact of disability on individuals, families, and society. – From the Publisher


If you were unable to attend this presentation, it is available via video recording here: Social Justice Mondays Recordings.