This summer marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was signed into law on July 26, 1990. Yet, on the eve of the anniversary of the ADA’s passage, Haggen Food & Pharmacy, which came into Santa Barbara to purchase redundant grocery stores after the Safeway/Vons merger with Albertsons, has laid off all 14 courtesy clerks with developmental disabilities that PathPoint had placed with the original corporations. This also happened in Paso Robles, as reported in the Daily News.
While PathPoint’s employment specialists are doing everything possible to get those individuals lined up with other grocery stores, the workers will lose their seniority and working relationships. Additionally, there is mention of an agreement between Haggen, Albertsons, and Vons that an employee cannot look for replacement work at those grocery stores for a year. This will no doubt impact our individuals who are trying to relocate to other stores.
I understand that businesses make decisions based on profitability goals, but the impact of a lay off on the people we support is so much broader than Haggen has considered. I applaud Vons, Albertsons, and Ralphs for their long history of providing employment and promotional opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities.
The unemployment rate for working-age people with disabilities is nearly double the rate of those without a disability: 21 million out of 26 million people with disabilities are not even in the labor force, though surveys show that the vast majority of them want to work. Regardless of the individual’s circumstance, abilities, or disabilities, we believe that steady employment is the foundation of a healthy and fulfilling life in the community. The satisfaction of a job well done is a feeling we all deserve.
Apparently, 25 years later, we still have a long way to go.
Cindy Burton is president/CEO of PathPoint.