Let's Talk Human Rights Blog - April 2018

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    In this month's "Let's Talk Human Rights" blog:

    • The Great Debate by Page Eastin
    • Same-Sex Marriage in Iowa by Sonia Reyes-Snyder

    The Great Debate

    “The people are what matter to government, and a government should aim to give all the people under its jurisdiction the best possible life.” 

    –Frances Perkins


    Many people are familiar with, or have at least heard of, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In 1938, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed it into law. The FLSA establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment standards affecting employees in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments. The FLSA is a civil rights statute that provides protections to Americans in the workforce by guaranteeing a minimum wage. The guaranteed minimum wage applies to all workers, with the exception of workers with disabilities who may be employed by companies that hold a 14(c) certificate.

    Section 14(c) is one component of the FLSA that allows employers who apply for and are granted a 14(c) certificate to pay employees with disabilities less than the minimum wage. The intention of Section 14(c) was to give employers the opportunity to hire wounded veterans who were returning from World War II. 

    Cue Frances Perkins, one of my heroes, who advised FDR to put Section 14(c) into the FLSA. Yes, I am calling the woman who basically invented the payment of subminimum wage to persons with disabilities my hero. First of all, Frances Perkins was the first woman appointed to the U.S. Cabinet and still holds the record for longest serving in the role of U.S. Secretary of Labor. She was blazing a trail for women in the 1930’s! She used her position to make our country more inclusive of people with disabilities. Plus, the woman could dress (picture featuring Frances Perkins in a fur-trimmed coat).  

    Frances Perkins

    In the 1950’s, Sheltered workshops began to flourish as parents began transitioning their loved ones out of institutions. Although they can be a somewhat controversial topic today, these sheltered workshops started under good intentions. If Frances Perkins hadn’t gone out on a limb and pushed for the rights of people with disabilities back in 1938, we may not be where we are today with the disability rights movement.

    Enough patting ourselves on the back though. It’s now 80 years later and we are still using the Section 14(c) certificate to pay individuals with disabilities subminimum wage. In Iowa we hear about the “workforce shortage” and we discuss ways to attract workers to Iowa to fill the needs of businesses. We talk about Future Ready Iowa and talent banks and economic development. When we upskill workers, it leaves positions open- ones that pay minimum wage. That’s a step up from sheltered employment and we have an obligation to upskill EVERYONE, including those working in sheltered workshops. 

    In March 2019, Iowa Medicaid Enterprise is enforcing the CMS Settings Rule which places time limitations on pre-vocational services. That’s a step in the right direction but it can’t be the last step.

    If you’d like to read more about the use of subminimum wage, check out our publication, The Great Debate available electronically at: https://humanrights.iowa.gov/cas/pd.

    Written by Page Eastin

    Same-Sex Marriage in Iowa

    LGBT flag

    9 years ago on April 3, the Iowa Supreme court ruled to continue with Iowa’s legacy of equality in a  unanimous vote, making Iowa the third state in the country to establish marriage equality. Iowa marriage licenses were issued to same-sex couples for the first time on April 27, 2009.

    What this meant for same sex couples in Iowa is that for the first time in the state’s history, they were eligible for Employee Benefits, Family Leave, Medical Leave and Hospital Visitations,  Inheritance Rights, Medical Decisions, Property Rights, Social Security Benefits, Tax Benefits and more.  

    There is still a lot of work to be done to educate and advocate for the LGBTQ community in Iowa and statewide agencies such as One IowaIowa Safe SchoolsThe LGBT Health InitiativePFLAG, and many local organizations continue to work hard to ensure that LGBTQ individuals and their families have the support and information they need and the opportunity to live, go to school and get to know LGBTQ role models in their own communities. In turn, this leads LGBTQ individuals and families wanting to stay in Iowa and continue to be the professionals, business owners, stellar students, workforce and consumers that Iowa needs to continue to grow.

    Written by Sonia Reyes-Snyder, Office of Latino Affairs

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