May 22, 2023 | by Amber Smock

Subminimum Wage Phaseout Advocacy Continues

We have an important update for you on Illinois’ subminimum wage advocacy: Late last Friday, Chief Sponsor Representative Mah called the Dignity in Pay Act, HB 793, to the House floor for a vote after a very passionate debate. A few cosponsors were absent, so the bill wound up on “postponed consideration,” which means Representative Mah can call it again. So we need your help again, TODAY!

Below, we updated our action alert instructions, (plus we offer some some more detail to help people understand the bill better).


Even if you made calls or sent emails already, we ask that you do it AGAIN today. People power makes history! Ask your Illinois legislators to say YES to the Dignity in Pay Act, also known as HB 793 HA 1. Here is the quick action email link. Yes, we need to contact BOTH the House and the Senate concerning HB 793.

If you can make calls, look up your Illinois State Senator and State Representative at this link, then call their Springfield offices. It’s okay to leave a voicemail. You can use the following sample phone script: 

“Hello, my name is ___ and I’m calling to ask ___ to support the Dignity in Pay Act. The Dignity in Pay Act is an opportunity to grow employment and fair pay for people with disabilities who make less than minimum wage. The House bill number is HB 793 HA 1. Will you let them know to please vote yes? Thank you.”

2: Additional Background Information on Subminimum Wage

Why does the subminimum wage need to be phased out? 

For decades, many people with disabilities were not considered to be “real workers” like non-disabled people. But the reality is that people with disabilities want the opportunity to be paid real wages for the real work they do. It should not matter if you need extra supports to do your job—you’re still doing your job. The film “Bottom Dollars” does a great job at explaining the history of the disability subminimum wage, and why disabled people want change. 

Is Illinois ready to phase out the subminimum wage? 

Yes! The City of Chicago is already phasing it out, and Governor Pritzker issued an Executive Order that phases it out for state-use contracts. People with disabilities and providers are already working to shift the employment/pay models as necessary. This has been a long and hard process for all stakeholders involved, but the fact that we could get this bill passed is a testimony to everyone’s dedication to the idea that we all deserve “dignity in pay.”

What else is important to know?

First, the Dignity in Pay Act seeks to ensure persons with physical and/or developmental disabilities can earn fair compensation for work. It was developed over many years through discussion with the entire disability community, including providers that operate facility-based employment services, commonly referred to as sheltered workshops.

Second, the Dignity in Pay Act will not close sheltered workshops. There is a common misconception now associated with this Act that is simply untrue – that this bill will close sheltered workshops. The Dignity in Pay Act does nothing to prohibit the operation of these employment environments. It does however, ensure anyone working in the setting must earn a minimum wage. A Transition Fund will be set up to help those employment environments shift to a model where people can make at least minimum wage.

Third, the Dignity in Pay Act will support economic empowerment. The Dignity in Pay Act addresses what has not only emerged as a civil rights issue – fair pay for workers with disabilities, but also economic empowerment. Persons with disabilities can maintain the dignity of work and earn enough money to pay for things important to them.

Fourth, the Dignity in Pay Act WILL protect benefits. This bill ensures additional recommendations will follow to protect the means tested benefits (Medicaid and disability services and supports), knowing we have ABLE accounts in Illinois that also help address this concern. This piece has been an important part of the discussions over developing the bill in the last five years.

Fifth, state government will be required to work with/support providers. This bill ensures state government will work with contracting businesses to identify what they recommend to maintain contracting work with sheltered workshops. This could mean incentives, but also more information about the benefits of employing persons with disabilities as well.

Last but certainly not least, the Dignity in Pay Act supports self-determination. In the instance that a person working in a sheltered workshop may choose to do other things with their day, this bill ensures person-centered plans and meaningful day plans are developed, and that the personal needs allowance for people who live in CILAs (group homes) or congregate settings is increased to $100 per month.

What groups support the Dignity in Pay Act? In alphabetical order: Access Living, Arc of Illinois, Equip for Equality, IARF, Illinois Association of the Deaf, Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities (ICDD), Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living (INCIL), National Association of the Deaf, National Federation of the Blind-Illinois, SEIU HCIIMK, and the Shriver Center on Poverty Law. Organizations interested in supporting the Dignity in Pay Act can contact our Economic Justice Policy Analyst, Nick Boyle, at 

Don’t wait to send your advocacy email TODAY! Again, use this quick link to let your state legislators know we need to pass this bill ASAP! The time is now. Please share this call to action with your Illinois networks. Thank you for your advocacy!