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Disabled Earn Pennies as Caregivers Debate Clinton’s Raise Plan

  • Democratic presidential candidates bash 78-year-old loophole
  • Paychecks for simple tasks in community charities’ workshops
Members of the National Federation of the Blind and other advocacy groups for the disabled demonstrate outside SourceAmerica headquarters in Vienna, Virginia, on Aug. 28, 2014.

Members of the National Federation of the Blind and other advocacy groups for the disabled demonstrate outside SourceAmerica headquarters in Vienna, Virginia, on Aug. 28, 2014.

Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg

Hillary Clinton’s call to raise the minimum wage for disabled Americans who earn pennies per hour has families and caregivers fiercely debating whether the real benefit of the jobs comes from pay or an intangible sense of self-worth.  

The lower pay, permitted by a policy in place since 1938, has been scrapped for federally contracted employees, and Clinton and Bernie Sanders say states should do the same. The issue, with shades of the national row over raising the minimum wage to $15, is hardly one of economics alone. It pits individuals’ capability and dignity against a business model built on a cheap labor pool willing, day in and day out, to stuff envelopes or fold bath towels.