Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Pat Quinn on Monday afternoon held a behind-closed-doors discussion on raising the minimum wage, appearing briefly afterward for the cameras.
Biden’s visit, which included a campaign fundraiser for the governor, allowed Emanuel and Quinn to draw attention to their efforts to raise the minimum wage in Chicago and Illinois.
“The bottom line is this: You can’t have an economy that works, you can’t have a middle class that is ascending when you have 24 million people working full time and living in poverty,” said Biden, who added that advocating for the issue is “stamped in the DNA” of both Emanuel and Quinn.
The event, held at the Little Black Pearl youth cultural arts center in Kenwood, included seven small business owners and Ald. Will Burns, 4th, who has chaired Emanuel’s task force on the minimum wage.
Earlier this summer, Emanuel endorsed the task force’s proposal to raise the city’s minimum wage rate from $8.25 to $13 an hour by 2018. There are, however, no plans for aldermen to take up Emanuel’s proposal until after the Nov. 4 election, when voters across Illinois will be asked if they back increasing the statewide minimum wage to $10 an hour.
The mayor highlighted the fact that he worked with Biden on successfully raising the minimum wage while in the Clinton administration in 1996 and while serving in Congress in 2007.
“The minimum wage has not been raised while the cost of gasoline, bread, eggs, milk, all the basics a family needs to live, have gone up,” Emanuel said. “I think all of us here understand that if you work, you should not raise your kid in poverty.”
Quinn sought to draw attention to the Nov. 4 advisory referendum on minimum wage that asks if the state’s rate should increase from $8.25 to $10 a hour, calling the issue “the cause of a lifetime.”
Democrats hope that ballot question will help boost voter turnout in a year when both Quinn and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin are running for re-election and campaigning against income equality. If Chicago raised its minimum wage to $13 an hour before the statewide election, that could lower the incentive for some voters in the heavily Democratic city to weigh in on the issue.
Emanuel has said the city is prepared to act on his proposal if Springfield lawmakers do not raise the state minimum wage after the election. The mayor has refused to say, however, whether he would still push for a $13 minimum wage in Chicago if lawmakers raise the state rate to $10 an hour.
“I’m not going to answer hypotheticals at this point,” Emanuel said earlier this month. “If the state acts, I’ll bring the (city) task force back together and see what we want to do.”
A recent Chicago Tribune poll found four out of five city voters support Emanuel’s plan to raise the minimum wage to $13 an hour.