WASHINGTON — Major unions are pumping big money into a November ballot question on raising Illinois’ minimum wage, which in reality is a political tool to energize Democratic voters who are also more than likely to vote for Gov. Pat Quinn and other Democrats on the ticket.
Last July, Quinn signed a bill putting on the November ballot a statewide advisory question on raising the minimum wage in Illinois for adults over 18 to $10 an hour by Jan. 1, 2015.
The anticipated byproduct of having the question on the ballot is to turn out Democratic votes, especially for Quinn, who’s locked in a tight battle with GOP nominee Bruce Rauner.
On Aug. 14, a new political committee was formed in Illinois: the Committee to Reduce Income Inequality and to Support Human Rights.
In reality, this is a front group for the Illinois AFL-CIO. The officers of this new committee, Michael Carrigan and Timothy Drea, are the president and the secretary-treasurer of the Springfield-based Illinois AFL-CIO.
The committee is running the “Vote Yes on ballot initiatives” campaign. On Wednesday, Quinn is speaking to the state AFL-CIO, holding a conference in northwest suburban Rosemont.
The minimum wage issue is being used by Democrats — in the Obama White House, the Illinois Quinn campaign, Illinois House races, national contests and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, on the 2015 ballot, to boost support and mobilize turnout from core Democratic groups: Hispanics, African-Americans, youths and women.
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Most of the money for the Committee to Reduce Income Inequality comes from unions based in Washington. Big labor is donating millions of dollars directly to the Quinn campaign and is heavily invested in his re-election.
Since Sept. 11, $757,500 — almost all of it from Washington — has flowed to this committee, according to an analysis of Illinois campaign contributions by the Chicago Sun-Times using electionmoney.org,a site created by the Sunlight Foundation, based in Washington, D.C.; the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform; and the firm DataMade, a public policy data firm based in Chicago.
On Monday, the IBEW donated $450,000, the biggest donation to date from the committee. Earlier this month, AFSCME gave $250,000, and the International Association of Fire Fighters contributed $50,000. All three of these labor organizations are based in Washington. The only donation from Illinois was $5,000 from the Theatrical Stage Employees Local 2, which is based in Chicago.
Rauner also wanted to generate turnout by getting a ballot question on the ballot. The petition drive he sponsored to ask voters if they wanted term limits failed to pass muster in the courts and was tossed out.
In Congress, Obama and Democrats face opposition on the minimum wage from the GOP leaders who control the House. In Springfield, the governor, state House and state Senate are supermajority Democratic; however, a minimum wage bill was never called because of resistance from some Democratic lawmakers from jobs-starved downstate districts.