Prominent Illinois Democrats called for an increase in the minimum wage on Sunday and characterized the GOP candidates for governor and U.S. Senate as out-of-touch plutocrats.
“I am not envious of my opponent, who is a multimillionaire,” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said of state Sen. Jim Oberweis, a dairy magnate from Sugar Grove. “I’m only one Powerball ticket away from having the same amount of money.”
Standing before an array of TV cameras, Durbin, Gov. Pat Quinn and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky dished out plenty of populist red meat while kicking off the campaign for Quinn’s minimum wage ballot referendum.
The measure is nonbinding, but proponents hope a “yes” vote will encourage the Legislature to increase the state’s $8.25 minimum wage to $10.
Republicans have “forgotten” about “the folks who get up before the sun comes up and get on the buses and the CTA and head off for a long day of work at $8.25,” Durbin said.
Schakowsky said she and her husband tried to live on $77 a week — and challenged Republicans to do the same.
Meanwhile, Quinn criticized gubernatorial rival Bruce Rauner for shifting his stance on the minimum wage during the Republican primary.
Rauner initially said he was for cutting the minimum wage, then he said he was not in favor of raising it. Rauner now supports raising the minimum wage if it’s increased nationwide, or if it’s tied to a package of pro-business reforms in Illinois.
“We caught him red-handed,” Quinn said of Rauner’s shifting stance. “He was advocating cutting the minimum wage . . . he was on tape saying he was against raising the minimum wage. We can’t allow that to happen here in Illinois.”
In a statement, Oberweis’ campaign said Quinn and Durbin were trying to cover up their bad policy decisions with inflammatory speech.
Quinn and Durbin “failed Illinois” by “presiding over the worst period of economic decline in state history,” Dan Curry, a spokesman for Jim Oberweis said. “Their policies are devastating the poor and middle class in Illinois and no amount of divisive rhetoric will erase their sorry records.”