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BY ETHAN ELLIS
ADVOCATE



Have a disability? Want a job? Here’s what you’re up against. Only 27 percent of people with disabilities age 16 to 64 have jobs*; 37 percent of those who have jobs work part-time*; and they are paid 37 percent less than people with the same education who don’t have disabilities**.

Based on these numbers, only one-in-five of us have jobs and those of us who do, don’t get paid what we’re worth.

We share this low employment, under-employment, low wages and dodges that prevent us from getting employment benefits with a host of other groups including women, people of color, members of the LGBT community, and others who our country discriminates against and excludes.

It stacks the deck against us in our pursuit of happiness promised us in the Declaration of Independence.

Increasingly, it stacks the deck against anyone who is poor or middle-class, too. In the last 30 years, productivity of American workers has more than doubled but you wouldn’t know it by looking at their paychecks.

During that time, middle-class incomes have increased only 2 percent, while the working poor have lost 4 percent. Meanwhile, incomes of the rich and super-rich have increased four times.

This is no accident. It is the result of changes in government policies at the federal and state levels that have intentionally given tax breaks and other benefits to big corporations and wealthy individuals and incentives to businesses that move jobs overseas and hide the money they make in tax shelters in places like Ireland and the Cayman Islands.

These policy changes have been made in return for campaign contributions and other perks from those corporations and the wealthy.

Poor and middle-class folk like us pay for them with higher taxes, cuts in services, increased unemployment and loss of benefits.

In short, our government has been bought and most of us citizens no longer have any say. Our democracy is gone, sold out from under us.

Other groups are starting to unite in an effort to get our government back and re-democratize it. We must be part of that effort.

In fact, based on need, we should be leading it rather than lagging behind.

It is time to stop viewing our issues as unique to us and solvable by us and see them as part of the larger socio-economic and political picture that requires radical change if it is to truly include us. Until we do, relatively few of us will work and we will continue to be underpaid.

*U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014

**An Uneven Playing Field: The Lack of Equal Pay for People with Disabilities, American Institute for Research, 2014

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