Right now, more than 140,000 Americans are being paid less than minimum wage, some as little as $0.25 per hour. Why? How can this happen? Because employers can legally pay a person with a disability less than minimum wage. That’s right. The law allows employers to discriminate against people with a disability. We need to eliminate the sub-minimum wage.
Next week, John and Mark X. Cronin, co-founders of John’s Crazy Socks, will travel to Capitol Hill as part of the CEO Commission on Disability Employment to press for the elimination of the subminimum wage.
How Could People Be Paid So Unfairly?
Let’s go back to the Fair Labor Standard Act of 1938 (yes, 1938). This legislation created the 40-hour work week and overtime; it eliminated child labor and established the minimum wage. However, section 14(c) of that legislation allows organizations to receive a permit to pay people with a disability less than minimum wage. These are known as 14(c) certificates. The National Council on Disability found that 141,081 people were paid under 14(c) certificates in 2018.
It Is No Longer 1938: Just Look at John
This is personal for us. John Cronin has Down syndrome. If he had been born in 1938 the medical treatment he needed at birth would not have existed and he would not have survived his infancy. John would not have been able to attend school and we would have been instructed to place him in an institution.
But 1938 is long ago so John did have the open-heart surgery he needed before he was three months old. And he attended public school and received a first-rate education in the Huntington public schools. Not only has he gone on to perform meaningful work but John co-founded what is today the world's largest sock store and he has been named an EY Entrepreneur of the Year.
Everyone Deserves a Fair Wage
At John’s Crazy Socks, more than half our colleagues have a differing ability, what some would call a disability. Everyone receives a fair wage. Be clear, we run a business, not a charity. We do not give out jobs, everyone here has earned their job. Everyone here produces and plays an important role in fulfilling our mission to spread happiness. It would be unthinkable to segregate our colleagues and pay them less simply because they have a disability.
Eliminating the Sub-Minimum Wage
There is a bill before Congress that will phase out the subminimum wage and do right by all workers. The Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act (H.R. 1263/S. 533) is a bi-partisan bill that would make these changes:
- Eliminate any new 14(c) certificates.
- Phase out the current 14(c) certificates within five years.
- Provide funding for states to work with the current sheltered workshops to help them through this transition period so they can provide fully competitive employment.
- Provide technical support to assist this transition.
It is time to overturn an antiquated law. It is time to do right by our fellow citizens; everyone deserves fair pay. I say this as a parent and I would say this as an employer. The subminimum wage is a moral failure and it touches all of us. As a nation we need to rise up and make this right.
About John’s Crazy Socks John’s Crazy Socks was inspired by John Lee Cronin, a young man with Down syndrome, and his love of colorful and fun socks—what he calls his “crazy socks.” He and his father, Mark X. Cronin, started the company as a social enterprise with a mission of Spreading Happiness™. With more than 4,000 socks, John’s Crazy Socks is now the world’s largest sock store. More than half their employees have a differing ability, and their Giving Back program has raised over $625,000 for charity partners like the Special Olympics, the National Down Syndrome Society, and the Autism Society of America. Most of all, they are Spreading Happiness™.
For more information about John’s Crazy Socks, visit our webpage, Facebook page, Instagram account, TikTok or YouTube channel. You can also contact us at 631-760-5625 or via email at email@example.com.