Employment Agency Changes Name In Effort To Rescue Federal Set-Aside
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 6, 2006
EL PASO, TEXAS--The nation's largest nonprofit to benefit from a pre-World War II federal program designed to employ workers with disabilities has changed its name in an effort to keep government contracts.
According to the El Paso Times, the National Center for the Employment of the Disabled changed its name last week to "Ready One Industries". The organization has also made a number of other changes ordered by the President's Committee for Purchase from People who are Blind and Severely Disabled, which enforces rules under the 1938 Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act (JWOD) program. The JWOD program sets aside no-bid government contracts for nonprofits employment agencies with the understanding that workers with disabilities perform at least 75 percent of the work.
Last year, the federal government paid NCED $275 million to manufacture such things as chemical warfare protective suits, military uniforms and accessories, and cardboard boxes, under the JWOD program. But investigators found that the company could only account for 7.8 percent of the work being performed by employees who were "blind or severely disabled". In fact, NCED subcontracted some of the work to other businesses.
NCED officials denied the allegations that they employed so few workers with disabilities, and blamed the low numbers on paperwork errors.
Since those violations became public, several government agencies have withdrawn or refused to renew contracts, forcing NCED to lay off more than 1,000 of its 4,000 employees.
At the end of May, the President's Committee gave NCED 30 days to make necessary corrections -- which it said were "not negotiable" -- or lose more contracts.
In a related story, the Associated Press reported that Ready One on Monday sued former NCED president and CEO Robert "Bob" Jones for $30 million, claiming that, among other things, he overpaid himself by $1.5 million in 2004 and used company funds for his own gain. Jones, who resigned in March, is already being sued by a jet company for allegedly buying an interest in the firm with $1 million that belonged to NCED.
Also, the El Paso Times reported that former El Paso Mayor Joe Wardy is being paid $25,000 a month -- or $300,000 a year -- as the current president and CEO of Ready One Industries. The company's chief operating officer, Ernie Lopez, is making $255,000 this year.
Last October, the U.S. Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee heard testimony that executives of many nonprofits under JWOD contracts were earning salaries well into six figures, at the same time that many workers with disabilities were stuck in sheltered workshops, discouraged from seeking work in the community.
Nonprofits, including those with JWOD contracts, are allowed under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to pay workers with disabilities less than minimum wage when certain conditions are met.
"Deadline nears for NCED to restructure" (El Paso Times)
"NCED posts sign with new name at company's plant (El Paso Times)
"NCED gets new name, will split in two" (El Paso Times)
"El Paso charity sues former president for $30 million" (Associated Press)
"Senate Panel: Federal Programs Help Executives, But Fail Workers With Disabilities" October 20, 2005 (Inclusion Daily Express)