The American Council of the Blind takes strong exception to the representations of David Barram, administrator of the General Services Administration ["GSA Shift Hurting Nonprofits; Warehouse Closures May Mean Layoffs for Blind Workers," news story, Sept. 28].
GSA argues that it did not "intend" to throw blind workers out of their jobs and that it is "going to look at that hard and make sure we didn't do anything inadvertent." Intended or not, 23 blind people are now not working and up to 1,400 more are at risk of losing their jobs.
The reality here is clear. GSA deliberately followed the path of reinventing government without sufficient thought as to what the consequences would be. Now a major agency -- which got where it is partly on the promise that "America has nobody to waste" -- finds itself putting the jobs of 1,400 blind workers and 2,000 federal employees at risk.
In the face of this reality we get rhetoric rather than commitment to the three steps GSA needs to take. First, it should slow down the closing of distribution depots to allow other systems to ramp up to carry the load. Second, it should make an unequivocal statement to federal customers that the products made by blind workers are still available and customers need to be buying those products under the law. Third, it should put a management scheme in place that thinks through decisions and actions, preventing crisis when possible and managing it quickly when unintended results occur.
Those workers who make the pens and other items for government purchase are everyday people with everyday lives. They have families and they work hard. They don't earn anything near what a GSA administrator earns, but they do earn their wages, and it's time GSA took action to honor the trust these folks have placed in the decisions of the administrator.
American Council of the Blind