When Proposition 202 passed last November, the Center for Habilitation, which assists in training and employing the disabled, fired 100 workers. Other disability advocates feared that as many as 5,000 disabled workers statewide might also lose their jobs.
Before the new minimum wage, previous laws exempted disabled workers and allowed employers to pay wages commensurate with a disabled workers productivity level. When Prop 202 passed without these exemptions, disabled workers lost the freedom to negotiate wages reflective of their unique skills.
The legislature worked out a compromise last week: employers will be allowed to categorize disabled employees as trainees, and pay them less than minimum wage.
With one exception in effect, we must ask, what about other workers in the economy? Teenagers without experience, recent immigrants struggling to learn English, and some elderly who move at a slower pace all have different employment skills. Shouldn't these people be allowed to negotiate wages reflective of their productive capacity, too?
Individual employees come to work with different skills, motivation, and training, and wages should reflect these things, not an arbitrary standard set by the state. Employees should be free to negotiate with employers for wages reflective of their ability, not priced out of the job market by well-intentioned but misguided state standards.
Barbara Smith is a Goldwater Institute Ronald Reagan Fellow.
-Arizona Republic: A Fair Answer to Wage Woes
-Arizona Daily Sun: State's New Minimum-Wage Law May Take Jobs Away From Disabled Workers
-Arizona Republic: New AZ Wage Law Hurts Disabled Workers
-Goldwater Institute: Wage Hike Would Hurt, Not Help