California workers paid as little as $2 an hour -- and it's totally legal

According to The Fresno Bee, in the state of California where the minimum wage is $14, there are workers who are being paid as little as $2, and it's completely legal.

The program 14(c) allows companies to pay Californians with disabilities below minimum wage. According to supporters of the program, it gives employment opportunities to people who wouldn't have them otherwise. But opponents say it's exploiting workers.

"Some disability advocates are pushing to end the program: A recent proposal to hike the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour included a provision ending 14(c)," the Fresno Bee reports. "But with the proposal stalling in Congress, advocates have put forth a bill in the California Legislature to phase out the program by 2025, joining ten other states including Alaska, Oregon and Texas."

The Bee tells the story of Jackie Armstrong, 35, who is autistic. In 2009 when California's minimum wage was $8 an hour, she was paid $5 an hour for assembling boxes of prunes and dates. The rules of the program allowed her to be paid based on how productive she was compared to an average worker without a disability.

"If you are constantly treated as less than, you think of yourself as less than," said Armstrong.

"For eight decades, this practice has reinforced a false assumption that people with disabilities are less capable of full employment than people without disabilities," said Gregory Cramer, a senior legislative advocate for Disability Rights California who is sponsoring the bill. "Decades of research demonstrates that people with disabilities can, with the right support, succeed in a competitive integrated environment."

Read the full article over at The Fresno Bee.