Coalition of Advocacy Organizations and Providers Across Illinois Hold Rally at Illinois State Capital to End Subminimum Wage


April 12, 2024 | by Emma Olson

Coalition of Advocacy Organizations and Providers Across Illinois Hold Rally at Illinois State Capital to End Subminimum Wage

HB0793 would phase out, with support, outdated discriminatory policies that allow providers paying workers with disabilities less than minimum wage.


Atta Zahedi

PR Coordinator

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CHICAGO — A coalition of disability advocates, providers, and legislators rallied at the Illinois Capitol Building on April 12 to support passage of the Dignity in Pay Act (HB 793) to phase out the sub-minimum wage for disabled workers while supporting integrated work environments. The bill is sponsored in the House by Rep. Theresa Mah and in the Senate by Sen. Cristina Castro and has bipartisan support.

Critical steps are needed to protect workers with disabilities throughout Illinois who are not given options for competitive fair-wage employment. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers can apply for and receive a 14(c) waiver which allows them to pay disabled workers less than minimum wage. In some cases, disabled workers can make as little as 50¢ an hour, or less than $100 / month for a 40-hour work week.

“When I asked why I was paid differently from other workers I was told my work is different than people who work ‘normally’” says Tyson Bedford, a worker with disabilities. “This unfair treatment prevents people with developmental disabilities from being paid fairly. We deserve competitive employment opportunities.”

“Having visited disability service providers across the state of Illinois, advocates, families, and non-profits see the need to begin the process of moving away from subminimum wage for people with disabilities” says Nicholas Boyle, Economic Justice Policy Analyst at Access Living. “Rather than falling back on past policies that diminish the talents of people with disabilities, including those with significant intellectual and developmental disabilities, let’s look forward to policies that affirm the dignity of disabled workers in their jobs and paychecks.”

Subminimum wage has already been banned in 14 states and currently several Illinois disability providers have created innovative community integrated programs that pay people with disabilities fairly. The Dignity in Pay Act supports this work for all providers with 14(c) waivers by establishing a Transition Fund to assist providers in moving away from paying subminimum wage.

“It is up to all those committed to hiring disabled workers to ensure that they are treated with dignity in their work” say Douglas McDonald, CEO of SPARC, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that operates 21 Community Integrated Living Arrangements. “Employers and the state have the resources available to transition into paying disabled workers competitively.”

Developed over five years in partnership with stakeholders, this bill addresses a civil rights issue unresolved from the 1930s. In addition, the Illinois Employment First Act establishes a state policy that competitive and integrated employment would be the first option for workers with disabilities.

“This bill is an example of all stakeholders understanding the value of disabled workers in Illinois” says State Representative Theresa Mah (D-Chicago), “This passionate coalition of workers, employees, and legislators working together demonstrates that Illinois is committed to advancing the rights of workers with disabilities to dignity in their work and pay.”

The coalition advocating for integrated employment settings with fair wages includes:

  • Access Living
  • The Arc of Illinois
  • Equip for Equality
  • Illinois Association of the Deaf
  • Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities
  • Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities
  • Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living
  • Illinois Self-Advocacy Alliance
  • National Association of the Deaf
  • National Federation of the Blind – Illinois
  • SEIU Healthcare – Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Kansas


Established in 1980, Access Living is a center of service, advocacy, and social change for people with disabilities led and run by people with disabilities. We envision a world free from barriers and discrimination – where disability is a respected and natural part of the human experience and people with disabilities are included and valued.