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Reinstate a continuum of employment opportunities to all individuals with developmental disabilities.

This petition had 865 supporters


We, the undersigned, call on the New York State and Federal Government to reinstate a continuum of employment opportunities to all individual with developmental disabilities.  The U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, section 14(c) authorizes employers, after receiving a certificate from the Wage and Hour Division, to pay special minimum wages – wages less than the Federal minimum wage – to workers who have disabilities for the work being performed. 

Although OPWDD offers some employment options to individuals with developmental disabilities, the option to be employed utilizing the Department of Labor, section 14(c), has been eliminated at ucpn and is in the process of being cut across New York State.  Can you imagine being employed one day and being unemployed the next day all because the state decided to eliminate our program? That happened at ucpn between December 31, 2014 and January 1, 2015, and 120 people with developmental disabilities lost their jobs!!!

 Unintended consequences?  Impact on each individual?  Massive!  Tremendous!  Devastating!  Heart-wrenching! 

The individuals speak for themselves:  

“If we can agree that to be employed is better than not to be employed at all, I can say that I was meaningfully employed. I can also say that my peers at ucpn have expressed to myself and others that they felt they were meaningful employed even though their paychecks were less than minimum wage. Our work was about the true pride that comes from successful involvement in work.” -Kevin Christman

 “I work at the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Nassau County, Inc. as a teacher’s assistant and I heard the State doesn’t value my job. How can they know if it has any value when the decision-makers do not even know what I do? Now that I got laid off I feel I am worthless.”

                                                          -Charlie Fleisch

On January 1, 2015, the new year started with 120 individuals with disabilities losing their jobs – essentially being fired as a result of cuts to their program by New York state! 

“We’ve been fired!”  When we should have been hearing good wishes for the new year, those awful words were being sadly uttered by devastated participants in our Adult Day Services program known as Life Options. 

So much for a happy new year!

Here is what some of the people who lost their jobs have to say:

Kevin Christman, a teaching assistant for 6 years at ucpn who loved his job and was great at it, sadly reported “On January 1, 2015, 120 of our participants all lost their job on the same day. I was one of them. Before obtaining my teaching assistant job that I loved performing so much,  I had spent two years looking for work without success despite having a masters degree and fell into a deep depression. Now, after losing my job due to State cuts, I feel equally as worthless.”

Through tears Kiara English exclaimed “It’s very hard for me to get a job, an outside job. I have been here for 25 years. I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s not fair to me. It’s not right.”

Riva Zinno, full of sadness reports “They’re taking away pre-voc and now I have no job.”

According to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, a survey of more than 100,000 Americans. 16.6 of unemployed Americans are depressed compared to 5.6% of those who work.

Nancy  Pederson says “I have been a teacher’s assistant for 9 years and enjoy helping my peers. It gave me great pleasure to have the job. Now the state is not recognizing it as a real job and I feel like I’ve been fired.”

A dejected Melissa Herrera comments “Being in pre-voc gave me the opportunity to bring home my check but now I won’t be able to because pre-voc is being cut from life options so it makes me really upset.”

 “I think it’s not fair! ” shouts Sam. “ I’ve worked here for 7 years. I think it’s not fair that someone can cut the people in the pre-voc area who work together like a family.”

“Self-esteem and self-worth are closely aligned with working,” says psychotherapist Charles Allen.  “When you have a job, you have a continuous source of feedback that you are a contributing member of society, you feel it in the depths of your brain.”

Noelle says, “My favorite part of pre-voc was getting paid and working with my friends. I like to get paid and now I can’t do that anymore because of the cuts.”

Patty Vassiliadou “I do several jobs at ucpn that I will not get paid for anymore and I feel sad because I really really love my job.”

Frank Fee “I think cutting pre-voc is a big mistake. It helps out a lot of people.”

Sara Ozol through tears comments “I just found out that I won’t get paid anymore because they are closing pre-voc. It makes me feel very sad because I used to look forward to getting paid.”

Vinny Pinnello “I’ve been trying to get a job outside of ucpn but I have not been successful. Pre-Voc was the one job I could count on.”

“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

Thomas Jefferson, our third president knew what he was talking about!  The ability to have a job that you enjoy doing and feel makes a difference is essential to a person’s self-esteem and happiness. When a person works hard at a job, and shows responsibility and dedication, they deserve to be paid for their efforts.  What right does the state have to decide one day that a person cannot work and be paid for the efforts?

"Unemployment can lead to enormous depression. People can have nights filled with anxiety and it's all due to the loss of identity," said Robert Chope, author 

Mr. Zafiratos, Dad of a program participant remarks with a heavy heart, “In 2005 of December it was one of my son Robbie’s proudest moments to receive his first paycheck. He was so proud. He felt like he accomplished something great. Something we thought he would never do. It is sad to see that the state is cutting the budget to a point where all these kids no longer are able to accomplish things and make a few dollars for themselves and feel worthwhile. It is a sin that they have done this.”

Joe Pappalardo “I’ve been here for 65 years and I’ve never seen so many of my friends crying when they found out they are going to lose their job.”


Please listen to what the people affected are saying and contact your local legislator to ask for support in reinstating a continuum of employment opportunities for all individuals with developmental disabilities.  Your interest and support makes a difference!  Thank you!





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