News Local/State

Durbin, Callis, Ammons Campaign On Non-Binding Minimum Wage Referendum


When Illinois voters weigh in on raising the state's minimum wage in November, the result — no matter the outcome — won't affect Illinois law, at least not directly.  It’s non-binding, but that's not stopping Democratic politicians from campaigning on the referendum.

Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, Congressional hopeful Ann Callis and state representative candidate Carol Ammons say they're all voting "yes" to the advisory question on November fourth. 

They say they're calling for an increase in the minimum wage for people like 21-year-old Robert Emmons.
Emmons is a senior at the University of Illinois studying political science, but he's also a full-time worker, providing for himself and his sister, a student at Southern Illinois University.

"Sometimes I'll get home at like 11, 12 o'clock after working all day," he said. "It would just be like a two-hour period of class, and then after class, go right back to work. It was a constant work-class-work."

Emmons says he was hospitalized last year as a result of the extreme amount of stress he was under, working 50 hours per week and taking a full class load. He says raising the minimum wage would significantly relieve his financial pressures. 

Ammons, a current Urbana City Council member, says Emmons is one of the working poor who'd be lifted out of poverty with a higher minimum wage. 

She says her and her fellow democrats' challengers are out of step with American opinion polls on raising the minimum wage.

"As with Mr. Oberweis, and as with Mr. Davis, my opponent also says we should not raise the minimum wage," she said. "They have completely lost touch with the realities of families in Illinois and throughout this country."

She’s referring to Republicans State Senator Jim Oberweis, and freshman Congressman Rodney Davis.

Oberweis, has called for raising the minimum wage only for workers over age 26. Ammons says that would have hurt her at age 25, when she was a young mother on food stamps.

But opponents say raising the wage will hurt businesses, especially small employers that have narrow profit margins. 

Illinois' minimum wage is currently $8.25 — a dollar higher than the federal rate. 

Republicans say the advisory question is just a partisan ploy to bring out more Democratic voters.

The non-binding minimum wage referendum went on the ballot after lawmakers in Springfield failed to pass a plan to raise the rate this spring.