The following is an article written by Roger Haburey, an individual who is part of the Burkett Work Training Center at VBAS. Currently, all sheltered workshops in the U.S .are scheduled for closure in October, 2015. This is a federal mandate that cites payment of subminimum wage and segregation of the workforce as reasons for closure.
From: Mr. Roger Haburey
As a recipient of special service which is provided currently in a joint fashion by the Vivian B. Adams School, I can say without a doubt, anyone who calls this facility a segregated environment would be misleading anyone they say this to. I can also speak volumes when I say there are businesses out there that provide us with substantial support in that they let us work for them by making products which are commonly used in the efforts to improve or build new infrastructure necessary to sustain a thriving economy.
Since I came to my current program area in the summer of 1991, I’ve done a lot of work for various industries like goat cart manufacturers, fertilizer companies, general commercial merchandising operations and the current stake and hub business, which is currently the only in-house operation we have other then the recycling operations we have that take in card board, aluminum, and newspaper. In addition to the various jobs I mentioned I also work in a kitchen as well as render some janitorial services. Some of the individuals also help with services such as sanitation, where they remove full trash cans and replace them with empty ones on a twice daily basis. This is also in addition to technology training we also have with at least four computers which are available for the individuals to use in a variety of ways such as explore the internet, learn skills as well as play games.
On some occasions, when the work volume settles down, we just shut her down and take that day to have special activities like cookouts and special parties. the Reygene Burkett Workforce Training Center has been open as such since October of 1987; currently, there are bills working through congress that may spare us another few years; however, bad politics like that of the mid 1990s which saw a lot of jobs literally disappear could jeopardize the future of this facility which has also seen its share of good times and bad times.
The current bill we’re hoping to see pass out of the US House Representatives would allow the issuance of at least a few more subminimum certificates until the year of 2017. The bill in question has already passed out of the US Senate, and if passed by the House, the President said he would sign it into law. Without these special certificates, we’d either have to integrate our workforce with otherwise nondisabled individuals and pay federally mandated hourly wages. If the bill is amended, it may be sent back to the Senate for another vote before being either killed or sent to the President’s desk. However, the amendment I hope to see added would be an extension for the subminimum wage waivers from the proposed three years to at least five years. However, if it passes in current form, we’d still have three years before we’d have to fight this fight again.
As far as the strict rules which currently limit us to no more than two working hours per day, they don’t sit well with me in terms of me being able to make as much productive efforts as I used to. This rule also may be the blame for killing off some of our business in our stake and hub operation which I play a vital role in. In this job, I sort, count, bundle or box and palletize these materials for sale to customers in agriculture, construction, surveying and for other purposes.
As far as community working with us, this is happening with people making contributions of various natures to help us keep the place running. We also have a web site where you can go and make contributions online as well as view pictures and video of our actual in-house operation which we do almost every day five days a week on a nearly 247-day operating schedule. Without the bus system, we may not have the number of individuals we serve currently, and without community support of this facility in general, it wouldn’t be as easy as it is to keep the doors open and the business at BWT running as it does.
With this in mind, I ask everyone to sign a petition to ensure we can continue to serve the interest of these individuals as well as call or write your US House of Representatives district representative to voice your concerns about this potentially crippling blow to sheltered work center programs like this if the bill giving us another three years fails. As for those who call us dysfunctional and segregating, I feel they owe us an apology. Do you think the same way?
Instead of the federal government strapping us down with what I call far-reaching and so many rules and regulations, maybe, they might just benefit from our program in terms of maybe allowing us to work for the USDOT, USDA and maybe for the military; this is just a few ways we might be of service to the federal government; they give us jobs, in return, we produce a quality product. It’s a win-win for not only Uncle Sam but the local community as well. By working together, we can also do a better job in training individuals with intellectual and other special challenges without facing the danger of putting them in strange environments or taking away their right to freedom of choice.
For more information on getting involved, please feel free to either email or call the school, and we’ll be more than glad to share information with you about signing the petition and doing other things to help us. Thank you in advance for your support and we appreciate all the support we can get now and in the future.