Blumenthal Hails Launch Of Public-Private Initiative Advancing Employment Of People With Disabilities

(Hartford, CT) – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) joined congressional leaders and top-level executives from more than a dozen major U.S. companies to launch a nationwide public-private sector initiative advancing employment of people with disabilities. Officials will work together with companies to identify and resolve employment barriers facing people with disabilities, share experience and best practices, raise awareness of the benefits, and expand participation.

The initiative follows the first-ever CEO Summit focused on employment of people with disabilities, hosted by Walgreens at the company’s Windsor distribution center on June 4, 2012. Walgreens has been a leader in employing people with disabilities. Approximately 50 percent of the employees at the Connecticut distribution center have a disability. However, all employees work as equals with the same responsibilities and performance standards.

The Walgreens facility is powerful proof that people with disabilities are valuable assets to our workforce, Senator Blumenthal said. I appreciate the leadership of these companies on this important issue and I’m very eager to work with them to employ more people with disabilities in Connecticut and across the nation. All people with disabilities deserve the dignity of work and we should continue to find ways to help make this possible.

Summit participants included Blumenthal, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Congressman Pete Sessions (R-TX), and Delaware Governor Jack Markell, vice chairman of the National Governors Association. Participating companies included Amerigroup, Ascend Performance Materials, Best Buy, Clarks Companies, Ernst & Young LLP, GE Lighting, IBM, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Lundbeck, McLane Company, Merck, OfficeMax, SAP AG, Procter & Gamble, UPS, Walgreens, and Walmart.

One thing we’ve learned from the Walgreens experience is that if companies set big goals and put themselves out there, and work with the right partners to help them build a talent pipeline of eager, productive, and loyal workers with disabilities, the results of such efforts are stronger and more productive companies and a loyal productive workforce, said Senator Harkin, the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

As the father of a young man with Down syndrome, I understand firsthand the importance of providing individuals with disabilities opportunities in the workplace, Congressman Sessions said. I am encouraged by all of the companies reaffirming their commitment to employing individuals with disabilities, as well as expanding their efforts. I look forward to a continued partnership with Senator Harkin, Senator Blumenthal, Governor Markell and participating companies to provide even more opportunities for these eager and talented workers.

Walgreens was pleased to host this summit at our Connecticut facility to show everyone what we’ve learned – that employing people with disabilities is good for all employees, good for morale, retention and company spirit, good for productivity and ultimately, good for business, Walgreens President and CEO Greg Wasson said. We’re proud of our employees, and while each company needs to arrive at what works best for their business, we appreciate the chance to share our experience, the enthusiasm for what we’re doing, and the opportunity to learn and do even more.