Lakeside Packaging PlusLakeside Packaging Plus announced the creation of their Community Services Program at a Business Forum and Breakfast at the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh Alumni Center.

Professionals representing hospitality, food service, child care, retail, manufacturing, health care and financial services sectors came to hear new approaches to fulfilling the need to attract qualified workers. Human services agency representatives, educators and State Representative staff members also attended to hear best practices to share with their constituents.

Featured keynote speaker, Traci Jones, Corporate Director of Human Resources for Kalahari Resorts and Conventions, provided attendees with a valuable overview of the benefits in hiring associates with unique abilities. Making a case for answering the need for quality workers was supported further with the statistics she shared, including the remarkably low turnover rate (8 percent) for people with disabilities versus the general population (45 percent).

After the presentation, a moderated discussion among attendees provided valuable insights on how companies can make the case to hire associates with disabilities. With more than 75 percent of people with disabilities reporting being unemployed or underemployed when they would rather be working more, they represent an untapped market for employers.

Employers shared the need for getting over perceived hurdles, including concerns about accomodations, abilities, and perception that an entire job description needs to be completed by one person.

Lincoln Burr, Executive Director for Rehabilitation for Wisconsin in Action, said “If you are a manufacturer who assigns set up and tear down to every employee, can that task be completed by an associate with a disability? This possibility may open opportunities for others in the organization to create more product, improving profitability.”

Hiring associates with disabilities can prove to be better for the bottom line for a company in addition to bringing so many more cultural benefits for every employee.

Read the original story here.

Work Centers Under AttackWork centers for the disabled provide a useful service for businesses while allowing individuals with special needs to gain work skills and autonomy. But new federal regulations would make life difficult for these charitable operations, potentially causing some to close their doors.

These centers have historically been exempt from minimum wage laws, but proposed rules from the federal Labor Department would end the exemption. Regulators are also considering mandating "integrated work settings," which means they would have to employ more higher-priced, nondisabled workers to work with those who are disabled.

For many centers, that means they would have to fire disabled workers to hire more regular staff.

"That just doesn't make sense to me," said Charles Markey, the president of the Arnold Center in Midland.

Read the complete story here.

Allan Wartella, director of sales for Algoma Mop Manufacturers, Matt Bair and R.J. Phillips, Algoma Mop employees, demonstrate how they created the mops for the movie "Joy." (Photo: Karen Ebert Yancey/Kewaunee County Star-News)The producers of the 20th Century Fox movie, "Joy," are spreading a different kind of joy among the employees of Algoma Mop Manufacturers this holiday season.

Mops created by the Algoma-based company's employees made their "debut" Friday in the Christmas Day movie starring Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper.

The movie is based upon the story of Joy Mangano, who overcame hardship and became an inventor and home-shopping entrepreneur, building a business dynasty that began with the Miracle Mop in the 1990s.

When the prop master (the person in charge of all props for a movie) couldn't find enough of the original Miracle Mops for the movie, she contacted Algoma Mop Manufacturers, a subsidiary of East Shore Industries, which employs more than 80 adults with disabilities.

Vicki Holschuh

The board of directors of Goodwill Industries of South Central Wisconsin has appointed Vicki Holschuh to serve as the organization’s president and CEO. Holschuh replaces Barbara Leslie who is retiring at the end of the year after serving Goodwill for nearly 45 years, including 22 years as the organization’s top executive.

Holschuh worked for Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin for 18 years. She held a variety of executive positions during her tenure, including her final position as senior vice president and chief retail officer.

According to Gary Johnson, chair of Goodwill Industries of South Central Wisconsin’s board of directors, “Vicki is an individual with incredibly strong credentials who has helped the Milwaukee Goodwill organization grow into one of the largest in the nation. While helping to develop its strong retail program, Vicki has also never lost sight of the mission and values of Goodwill.”

H.R. 188Concerned parent, Carol Winter, weighs in on the how H.R. 188 will affect her son.

Read her letter to Wisconsin legislators:

Dear Senator Legislators:

I am writing on behalf of my son, John, a resident of WI, and an enthusiastic participant in the services of Greenco Industries, a sheltered workshop in Monroe. I am writing to ask that you vote NO when H.R.188 comes out of committee and reaches the Senate.

While I applaud your fellow Republican Rep. Gregg Harper’s intentions in sponsoring the Bill, and the intent of the Bill to expand community-based options and to pay a fair wage to the DD population, it is crucial that it does not force a one-size-fits-all solution on issues that are extremely complex, confusing opportunities with mandates which will reduce choices for individuals who already have so little from which to choose.

It is the first option that integrated, competitive employment be the first choice for every individual at Greenco Industries. Before moving back to the Monroe area, John lived in Madison, and his service provider fought diligently for SEVEN YEARS to secure employment in the community to no avail. John spent his days at the mall, in the office, watching movies, finger painting (which he hates) – pretty much doing nothing. The only activity he enjoyed was the volunteer “job” I secured for him…delivering Meals on Wheels to shut ins, for which he was paid…nothing.

Perhaps I am under-informed. Will there be any employer who will pay any worker minimum wage if they can not perform at expected levels. Will you or any of the members of Congress who will be voting in favor of this Bill be willing to hire any of the individuals who will be sitting at home if sheltered workshops are forced to close?

Can we be honest? This Bill is aimed at closing sheltered workshops by attaching Medicaid funding to less restrictive services. Advocates claim it will save money. When there is no safety net, the 400,000 who are left without any type of employment services will require more public assistance, not less.

It has been tried…and FAILED.

Maine. In 2008, a state law went into effect converting sheltered workshop employment into supported employment. According to a report by the Chimes Foundation and George Washington University, 2/3 of those previously employed in sheltered workshops are no longer employed and those who are working are earning less because they are working fewer hours. The numbers of those working in supported employment declined from 2001 to 2014. They are working an average of 12 hours a week instead of 20-40.

Vermont. Six years after sheltered workshops were eliminated there, just 36% of the people formerly employed in them found jobs in the open market. They averaged just 10 hours a week, again instead of 20-40.

How many times are we going to repeat this experiment before the government and advocates (and ideologues) admit that some people will not be able to succeed in integrated employment?

Some disabled choose to limit contact with environments which overwhelm them… some could be vulnerable to victimization. Some in the community simply do not want to associate with those who are mentally, cognitively, or physically disabled. My son is on the spectrum, and even though his appearance is typical, since he was a small child I have seen mothers pull their children away, avoid eye contact, even act as if his autism was contagious

Advocates say this is a generational argument, that we “older moms” are afraid of change. Well, Senator, I have seen and adapted to more changes in my son’s lifetime than you can imagine…some have gone full circle. I haven’t always been a supporter of sheltered workshops. Greenco Industries changed my mind. It fulfills many facets of life requirements necessary for happiness for my son. Work, friendship, exercise, relaxation, stability, a sense of productivity and worth.

In a perfect world, John would be President. Change the world first. Don’t use the disabled as tools to force political correctness. Put politics aside and do what is right for your constituents who have no voice in the political system.

Sincerely,

Carole Winter