RICHMOND – Workshop leaders and employees have added urgency to the reality that federal action could close the nation’s sheltered workshops, including Ideal Industries Inc., Richmond.

Concern about the threat has brewed for months. Now, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is poised to take a step toward turning that threat into reality.

The commission seeks public comments on whether to eliminate a key provision in a law that affects workshop pay: Section 14c of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Without the provision, all workshop employees – though many may take 10 or 20 times longer to do the same task as a fully able worker – must be paid minimum wage. For now, Missouri pays a “commensurate” wage, based on the dollar value of work done in an hour versus a set amount of money.

Rather than put more money into employees’ pockets, ending Section 14c has forced workshop layoffs because private employers who use workshops cannot afford to pay 40 hours in wages for what may amount to two hours of work. The conclusion is based on interviews in Washington state, where workshops closed after that state waived Section 14c.


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