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tv   Ali Velshi on Target  Al Jazeera  December 25, 2015 6:30am-7:01am EST

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christmas and santa there has a different mode of transport. and a reminder you can keep up to date with all of the news from around the world, just visit our website, it's very easy to find, it's al jazeera.com. black market booze. tonight i want to talk about a group of american workers who earn less than the federal minimum wage. but first, some context. the fair labor standards act signed by president franklin delano roosevelt in 1938, made the minimum wage the law of the land. 77 years later america is locked
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in a largely partisan debate about raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour. now no matter where you stand on the issue there's no arguing about this, when you adjust for inflation the current wage of 7.25 is lower than the minimum wage in 1968. in today's dollar the wage back then was 10.94 an hour. president obama backs a democratic bill that would raise there to $12 an hour but today, hundreds of thousands of disabled workers throughout this country are earning as little as $2 an hour, sometimes even less. that's because another part of the fair labor standards act allows employers to pay americans with physical and mental disabilities less than the minimum wage. now the original intent was to encourage businesses to hire people they otherwise wouldn't hire. the law says that these workers disabled workers can be paid based on how much they produce. so there's no minimum wage for the disabled.
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but low pay isn't the only issue. critics say disabled workers are segregated from other workers in disabled workshops, often perform basic repetitive tasks almost always for subminimum wages. some critics say these shelter workshops are guilty of exploitation, violating the americans with disabilities act, and the federal government is now pushing states to integrate disabled workers into the general workforce. in some cases that means closing sheltered workshops and here's where this issue gets complicated. some advocates for disabled workers say it would do more harm than good. without sheltered workshops many disabled workers would lose any chance of working. there's no denying that disabled
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workers face major hurdles. 2014 just 17.1% of disabled workers in america had jobs. 64.6% for people who don't have a disability. the controversy over whether working for little is better than working for nothing, came to an emotion al head at a hearing, at issue, a proposal to exempt sheltered workshops from raising the city's minimum wage. the bill did pass. but the debate is far from over. 50-year-old teresa jordan has never had it easy. but the single mother has always been determined not to let cerebral palsy get in the way of an independent spirit. she and her 13-year-old daughter live in a modest two bedroom apartment in st. louis. >> i basically stay care of myself. i don't have anybody coming in here to do my laundry, buy groceries or pay my bills. i do it all my own.
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>> teresa works most of her life. >> i'm labeling boxes for solastic. 5 to 700 boxes on a skid. >> like 220,000 disabled workers in the u.s. teresa is paid below the minimum wage. she earns about $3.65 an hour, $4 less than missouri's minimum wage. her rate is based on how many boxes she labels. the contract packager employs over 130 employees with disabilities, producing over 500 packages a week. >> to me, we work very hard. i would like to make more money as my daughter is getting a little older. by the time you get your disability check there's not much left. >> industrial aid is a sheltered workshop. with government
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imroivel approval, sheltered workshops could pay below minimum wage. in reaction to a reluctance among employers to hire disabled workers. less than minimum wage if they hire disabled workers. >> many disability providers began to develop this concept of a sheltered environment where people with disabilities would come and work on contracts that they would get from various businesses. and then end up paying less than the minimum wage. >> kurt decker who heads the national franchise. sheltered workshops that segregate the workers from the
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workforce, glue wher. >> where it's legal to pay people less than the minimum wage, raises serious question about exploitation and whether people are given the opportunity to reach their full potential. >> all of our revenues are being put into the organization to support the mission. >> the head of st. louis shelter workshops say their business model is based on the employment of subminimum wage workshops. exempting their business from a proposed minimum wage work like. >> if we were forced to pay minimum wage, they can only work at 20, 30, 40, 50% of industrial standard it would put us out of business in a very short period of time. >> the legislation passed in october of 2015. >> the model for sheltered workshops is they do receive some public funding. their primary income source is
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business revenue generated by winning contracts and this abrupt wage increase would make them uncompetitive to win any of those contracts and left a lot of individuals with developmental disabilities without work. >> it's been a fight to prove my intellectual ability all my li life. these workers, they deserve at least the respect of a minimum wage. >> painful divisions within the disabled community were exposed at the hearings. >> i'm scared. i'm scared to death that the workshops will go away, because it gives him meaning. and if his job goes away i have to quit my job to stay home with him. >> the future of sheltered workshops across the country is being threatened by stepped up enforcement of a 1999 supreme court ruling that people with disabilities work in more integrated settings. new york governor andrew
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quomo recently announced that sheltered workshops would be phased out in five years. >> i should be home at some point -- >> jim's developmentally disabled brother gerard makes about $1.95 an hour at aarc, a sheltered workshop in west hampton new york. drives about a half an hour every workday too visit his brother. it's the best thing that ever happened to gerard he says. >> i'm sure it's not something that works out to minimum wage but yet it's not an issue. he's very happy, feels very good about that paycheck. he feels good about having accomplished that. if you see him working at his electronic recycling program, he's thrilled about that. tremendous amount of self esteem that he feels out of it. >> the thought of gerard and his
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co-workers losing their jobs literally brings jim to tears. >> the families, give me a second. the families i think worry about the guys, the gals, just being at home. you know, with perhaps little meaning to their day-to-day existence. >> we don't want to see the workshop close down. i don't want to get laid off. if the governor shuts us down, then i won't make any money. >> back in st. louis, teresa jordan who is attending the minimum wage hearings in protest was disappointed that her side lost. but she wants to make it clear she doesn't want to see the shelters closed either. >> there's people that make a little less but they're happy with with what they make because they love coming there you know? i know there's some people there that can't hold a regular job.
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>> but teresa believes she can. >> this is all about your choices. >> she's meeting with a job coach from a local nonprofit organization, hoping she will make minimum wage or more in the future. >> it's a complicated issue. coming up next, i'll talk to a plan who doesn't have any problem paying disabled americans below minimum wage. he warns that the alternative >> the only live national news show at 11:00 eastern. >> we start with breaking news. >> let's take a closer look.
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>> as the nation engages in a heated debate about whether to raise the minimum wage it is actually still legal in this
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country to pay disabled workers below the minimum wage. as we saw earlier, sheltered workshops which employ a large majority of the disabled working population, can pay their employees as little as $1 an hour or less. some believe the workshops are a godsend for a population that would otherwise be shuttered at home but others charge that paying anyone below minimum wage is exploitation and discrimination. randy hilton represents sheltered workshops in missouri. he supports a bill that recently passed in st. louis that would allow workshops to be exempt from a wage like. he joins us now from kansas city. randy good to see you. thank you so much for being with us. the issue here is whether or not the disabled working population would be better off with a system that paid them more or they're better off with a system that pays them less but keeps them out of being stuck at home.
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tell me how you come down on this. >> we believe that sheltered workshops are an opportunity and opathway for people with disabilities to not only have a paycheck and work in their community. but if necessary, at some point, move into a regular job out in the community once they gain skills and abilities. >> right and that would be the hope. but according to an investigation by the government accountability office sheltered workshops are not particularly effective at getting people into the workforce, getting disabled workers and there's a great range of them obviously into the workforce, saying that only about 5% of sheltered workshops end up are leaving and taking a job in the community. >> in missouri that's and option for each individual. what their needs and their family's needs are, we support their working in the workshop or if it's an opportunity for them to move into the workforce we support that.
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does? if you are paying for labor santa rate lower than minimum wage there has to be some good outcome for it. because it inherently seems unfair so the good outcome is you're going to help these people transition into the regular workforce or what? >> right, that's the opportunity there to learn skills. how to operate out in the community, have ability to deal with co-workers. all of those things that give them the skills to be able to move into a community. otherwise, it still offers them an opportunity to work and get a paycheck and be a part of their community. >> so what's the problem with, just as there is a push in this country that seems to be gaining popularity in all quarters and across political lines to increase the minimum wage for all workers, why is that not viable for disabled workers? >> well, on disabled workers we do prevailing wage survey in each local shop.
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and that shop then puts that into their formula to be able to pay individuals on a commensurate wage basis. in the state of missouri over the last five years that has increased their wages an average of 3% a year. >> you were in favor of this bill in missouri in st. louis that exempted sheltered workshops from having to increase wages. so why would you be against that? >> well, we need to be in the real world of operating and what we have to do is provide employment first, and to be able to pay that at a minimum wage we're not able to do that on a regular basis, based on how our people function. and we have to work with them based on their commensurate wage abilities. >> all right but the range is so varied, that's the issue. i mean we generally again, there's a growing population in the united states who thinks that the 7.25 federal minimum
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wage is too low. we're hearing of stories of people that can be paid less than a dollar. at some point you have disabled workers who are able to as our story show be very productive yet be paid at a remarkable discount if that work would be paid to an able bodied worker. >> department of labor wage and hour section 14c you would be paying that wage commensurate to their ability to produce. that is commensurate to everyone in the country. >> what would you say to people who say, it is not fair to pay them that rate, the minimum wage, it doesn't seem fair? >> it's an opportunity and a choice for an individual. they can work with their family members and make decisions about what they want to do. and if they're not ready for a job in the community, then it gives them a chance to make a choice to go out and go to work and get a paycheck.
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>> now new york as you've heard the phasing out sheltered workshops i think over the next five years. sheltered workshops were shut down in vermont more than a decade ago. it does seem that within three years of the shutdown, about 80% of the people who had worked in the last sheltered workshop had found jobs outside of a sheltered workshop environment. so it does argue that maybe they can find jobs if they're not in the sheltered workshop system. >> well, there's been some studies and recently a white paper released by some universities that showed that a lot of the people coming out of the shelter workshops were not able to find jobs, that a lot of them were earning less than they were in the workshops and some of them were now having to volunteer and not get a paycheck at all. so for those people that have that level of functioning, it's not really fair. >> but in this case, in the case of vermont it did say 80% of those who had worked in the last
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sheltered workshop to close found jobs. the average wage of the disabled workers was 9.50, that's 50% above the state's minimum wage and above federal minimum wage. do you know if there's anything that we're missing but that seems very promising for those that argue that sheltered workshops are the wrong environment. >> i'm not sure of the source or the study you're talking about. the one that i looked at didn't show that kind ever ability and success for -- kind of ability and success for that. so i again would have to take a look at that and assess what that is. our experience here in missouri is that we are able sometimes to find people jobs out in. we also do supported employment at our sheltered workshop and we're very successful. sometimes transitioning people from shelter workshop into community employment. >> randy good to talk to you, thank you for talking to us. are.
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call it a thirst for forbidden.
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>> a little more than a year ago, president barack obama strode into the cabinet room of the white house to make an historic announcement. after more than a half a century, the united states would
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noirm normalize the relationship with cuba. >> to gib a new chapter with the americas. >> in august the u.s. reopened its embassy in havana. in september america announced it would no longer prevent companies like fedex and microsoft from setting up shop on the island. and americans can now travel to cuba as tourists, there's a catch though, you can't call yourself is a tourist. you have to fit into one of 12 loosely formed categories. but now you don't need government permission. that's prompted thousands of americans to head to the once forbidden island and as david ariosto reports, many of them are
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looking for business opportunities. >> reporter: in this new york city tavern there's a growing thirst for what kenneth connolly is serving up. to keep pace with the new american demand. but to stay competitive connolly is on the look out for those vintage and hard to find brands to temp his customers. >> if you can't get it there's going to be a huge demand for it. that's all going to change because of what's happening in cuba. >> havana club, the most recognized brand has been long available in europe. but those like connolly planning a trip to the communist island with the idea to stock up. he's doing that in spite of an
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embargo which prevents the selling of cuban rum in the united states. >> i'd like the see if i could get cases of it. >> and that's exactly what may have bacardi, the largest privately owned rum company, a little concern. the new u.s. regulation says you can buy $100 worth of liquor and bring it back to the united states and for havana club that works out to about 26 bottles. while this is not a commercially viable amount of alcohol the concern that bacardi has is if enough people come back here and bring all this back to the united states it is possible that havana club, cuba style could start showing up in restaurants. part of that concern is ownership. in 1997, bacardi bought the rights
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to havana club from an exiled family. that sparked a nearly two decade long u.s. trademark battle, with a company that was selling havana club, after spending nearly $3 million to lobby congress, to essentially rewrite u.s. trademark law in its favor. but now, as the cold war with cuba thaws, those old rum wars may again be heating up as more cuban spirits sneak into american bars. >> you're going to see a number of american lawyers get involved in this. the bacardi folks may say this is justifiably an end run around restrictions. >> reporter: the u.s. rum market accounts for roughly 40% of global sales and cuba wants in.
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its french partner registered a new brand of cuban rum with the u.s. patent office known as havanista. as talk of lifting the u.s. embargo swells, cuba is getting ready, to discuss what the new u.s. policy could mean for sales, the prospect of rum from castro's cuba represents more than just competition. founded in cuba's eastern city of santiago de cuba in 1862, emelio bacardi. >> once in power, castro double crossed the bacardis and nationalized their operations as part of his communist government. exiled but not defeated, the
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bacardis built up their business in surrounding countries. the effort failed but the family vowed to one day return to its home land. walking through streets of havana you can't help but get the sense of being in a bit of a time warp. there are so many relics to the past here including the building. you can still see the b emblaze oned in the wall. it is for bacardi. you ask see why there is such an emotional attachment tom to the property. for the cuban exiles who left the country more than a half a century ago. confiscated roughly $20 billion worth of cuban businesses and private property, including bacardi's offices and distilleries. $6 billion of american assets
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were also seized, triggers a trade embargo that's lasted almost half a century. >> the reality is that many of the companies have written off the loss decades ago. but they're still on the books. >> the resolution has to be dealt with before the embargo can be lifted. the cuban rum under the changed accessible. david ariosto, al jazeera. >> that is our show, the news conned on al jazeera america.
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♪ christmas around the world christians celebrate one of the holiest days on the calendar marking the birth of jesus. picking up the pieces thousands of people across the south salvaging what they can after deadly tornados sweep through. a fight over deportation, hitting the obama white house against the democratic candidates looking to succeed him. and housing the homeless, the work underway to help people camping out in the nation's capitol. ♪

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