Wages may be too low for the disabled in Champaign

By Brandon Zegiel, Columnist

Jeff Miller is a 57-year veteran of the Champaign community. A fan of reminiscing through country music, he had big dreams to become a lawyer. He knew how much law school would cost, so he carried a dual workload of both school and a part-time job.

After making it to to college, he succeeded in getting into graduate school. His success there allowed him to eventually go on and pass the Bar Exam, which gave him practicing attorney rights. Miller’s life had no dead ends.

That was until 2000, when his kidneys stopped working, and he went into a coma. During this time, Miller suffered irreparable damage to his brain, and he had to use a wheelchair from that point on.

From that moment, his life would never be the same. Miller looked for a job somewhere else because he realized that he still needed to work to support himself. He filled out twenty different job applications. While he did get calls back, the jobs he was offered consisted of a minimum wage payment of $8.25 an hour.

He had no choice but to take the sure money, so he took a job at a local Meijer in the area.
“They wanted me to work from 11 to 7 in the morning,” Miller angrily said to me.
He made it clear to his superior that he could not handle the workload because of his medical condition. Eventually, he was forced to leave when his employer refused to adjust his schedule properly.

After he left, Miller found himself working at a local Walmart, greeting people as they entered the store. While he did not seem to mind the work he was doing, the hours, again, were too much for his medical condition to handle. His employer refused to conform to the revisions Miller needed for his schedule, and he once again found himself medically forced to leave the job.
“(Walmart) wanted me to work more hours than I could,” Miller said.

Today, Miller can be found on a local street corner, asking for any change a person may have to spare to him. He is one of many people who call the streets of Champaign their places of work, where the primary goal is to pick up donations from the public.

Could it be that chain stores, such as Meijer and Walmart, need to better respect the disabled? I mean, $8.25 an hour is very difficult, if even possible, to live on. It takes a young and healthy individual to work more than forty hours a week, which controversially is needed to make a living income on minimum wage payments.

People who are disabled, like Jeff, shouldn’t have to be expected to work long workweeks that are taxing on the body and or mind. They should be provided for, having a stable income no matter where they work. This clearly wasn’t the case for the stores in his alleged story.

Maybe it would be a good idea for Walmart and Meijer, along with other stores in the area, to give more thought to the employment of disabled people. Possibly raising their hourly wage would allow them to keep off the streets, making their lives a bit happier in the tough economic climate.

Brandon is a sophomore in LAS. 

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