PublicSource used information that Pennsylvania employers submitted in applications to the U.S. Department of Labor seeking the authority to pay below minimum wage to workers with disabilities. It took a total of seven months for the department to hand over the documents. From 1,600 pages of paper documents, we built a database of the employers and the average hourly earnings and jobs of the individual workers they employ under the provision.
In some cases, the department was unable to provide the full application. The organizations also self-report, which results in different interpretations of how to fill out the applications. There are few checks on the integrity of that information.
Further, the number of disabled workers earning below minimum wage constantly fluctuates. Contracts for certain work may end, or the workers could be experiencing health issues or other obligations that take them away from the work.
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James Baldwin wrote, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” PublicSource exists to help the Pittsburgh region face its realities and create opportunities for change. When we shine a light on inequity in our region, like the “completely unacceptable” conditions in low-income housing in McKeesport, things change. When we ask questions about policymakers’ decisions, like how Allegheny County is handling COVID-19 safety for its employees, things change. When we push for transparency on issues that affect the public, like in the use of facial recognition software by Pittsburgh police, things change.
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