News Local/State

Gov. Quinn: No Regional Minimum Wage


First, the president held at $50,000 a head fundraiser for Governor Pat Quinn.  This week, the First Lady and Gloria Steinem will stump for him.  Over the weekend, it was actor Martin Sheen's turn.

According to the trade magazine "Variety," Martin Sheen made as much as $300,000 an episode for his role as Democratic Pres. Jeb Bartlet in the show "West Wing."

Sheen says he was paid nothing to spend the weekend in Chicago, campaigning with Gov. Quinn, and calling for an increase in Illinois' minimum wage.

"No, I didn't get a nickel," Sheen said. "I do it because I cannot not do it and be myself. This is a social justice fight and he's in the forefront. He's made the minimum wage his cornerstone and I support that."

Sheen went on to call Quinn one of his "heroes," and said they became friends when he advocated for the governor to sign a law abolishing the death penalty in Illinois.

In brief remarks that seemed to evoke his Pres. Bartlet character, Sheen called on an audience standing outside a Chicago church to "take the opportunity" before them, and to return Quinn to Springfield.

Quinn has spent the campaign trying to paint his businessman opponent, Republican Bruce Rauner, as so wealthy he's out of touch.

Rauner has wavered in his stance on the minimum wage, but now says he too supports an increase of an unspecified amount, if it's paired with pro-business changes, like to the workers' compensation system.

Though Quinn has pitched much of his campaign on a call to raise the minimum wage, he was unable to get it done during the last legislative session, when he also listed it as a priority, even though there are more than enough Democratic lawmakers to get a $10 minimum wage passed without any Republican support.

Instead, the General Assembly settled for passing a resolution putting non-binding question on next month's ballot. Republicans say it's an election stunt; Quinn defends it as strategy.

"You've got to build majorities in a democracy. That's what's happened over the years. You've got to get enough people in both houses to say yes. And I think the referendum is a good way to have the voice of the people be heard by legislators, and when they return to Springfield we'll get the job done, by the time necessary," Quinn said.

Part of why Quinn wasn't able to get it done was because of opposition from downstate Democrats, particularly those who represent areas that border other states that have lower wage requirements.

Campaigning outside a Chicago church, Quinn said he's against a regional minimum wage -- for example, one that would have a higher minimum wage in the Chicago metropolitan area, and a lower one elsewhere in Illinois.

"No.  It's the minimum wage. $10 an hour minimum, that's the minimum. We've got to keep on going." Quinn said.

Illinois' main business organizations say a higher minimum wage will force layoffs, and end up hurting the working poor instead of helping them.