Working with disabilities
State senator visits New London McDonald’s
By Scott Bellile
Wisconsin Sen. Luther Olsen popped into New London’s McDonald’s last week to learn how a job in the service industry can positively impact employees with disabilities.
McDonald’s employee and New London resident David Pinno met with Olsen at the local restaurant on Friday, Feb. 12, to show the 14th District senator the importance his fast food job serves in his life.
“I want to pay taxes and be treated like everybody else,” Pinno said. “I have a disability but appreciate and like my job at McDonald’s. Earning a paycheck makes me feel great. I am also a self-advocate and I feel passionate about issues surrounding ending poverty and creating financial equality in the system.”
Pinno landed a job with the McDonald’s company four months ago through the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, the state agency that coordinates employment for people with disabilities. He began in Clintonville for a month near his former hometown of Bear Creek and then shifted over to New London when its reconstructed restaurant opened in December 2015.
His stint with the DVR ended after the third month and McDonald’s hired him on. Pinno now works 20 hours per week preparing food and cleaning the restaurant.
Pinno has known Olsen for four years through his advocacy. The senator made time to drive to New London and pay a visit as part of the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities (BPDD) Take Your Legislator to Work Campaign.
“It’s very obvious David has lots of relationships here and enjoys working,” said Olsen, who toured the restaurant with Pinno and cleaned tables with him.
According to the BPDD, people with disabilities struggle to find jobs and often work below minimum wage if they do. Twenty-seven percent of Wisconsin citizens with disabilities live in poverty and consequently have to depend on public benefits.
Beth Moss, project coordinator for the BPDD, said some employers get nervous at the idea of taking on employees with disabilities while others aren’t aware they have the option. She said Wisconsin needs to offer businesses more incentives to hire those with disabilities, as the state ranks in the middle nationally for hiring.
“We could always improve,” Moss said. “Middle is not good.”
A business that hires an employee with a disability earns not just financial assistance from the DVR, Moss said, but also a loyal worker. She said a worker with a disability is more likely to stay at a job than one without a disability and might get off of publicly-funded programs by doing so.
Olsen called hiring employees with disabilities “a win-win for everybody.” McDonald’s Assistant Manager Erin Beyer vouched for that, saying that by hiring Pinno, the restaurant gained a valuable employee who will always take a shift last minute.
“David works out real well. We like him,” Beyer said.
Workers with disabilities have the skillsets to become valuable assets to employers, Pinno said. He enjoys working out in the community and said others like him should be given the same opportunity.
“I really like my job and I really want to continue working here,” Pinno said.