Demonstrators rally for better wages outside a McDonald's restaurant as part of a national protest.
Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan wants to crowd-source voters' opinions on raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour by adding an advisory referendum to the November ballot.
Madigan's referendum legislation passed through the House Labor and Commerce Committee with a 12-7 vote on Friday morning, and could potentially hit the House floor for approval next week, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
The measure would ask Illinois voters whether the state should raise the minimum wage from $8.25 to $10 for low-income workers by a deadline of Jan. 1.
"I'm here to try and life it up," Madigan said while making his case Friday, amid opposition from state Republicans and business organizations.
“I’m not here for employers," he argued. "I’m here for workers, for people ... who are up against it, and they want the government to give them a little help in this United States of America. The simple question is do you want the government to help the people at the bottom or do you not. That’s it."
Madigan's move to introduce the minimum-wage question is seen as a sly attempt to lure Democratic voters on Nov. 4, when incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn learns whether he'll keep his seat in Springfield or yield it to Republican challenger Bruce Rauner.
While President Obama, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Quinn have voiced support for a minimum wage bump, Rauner -- a multi-millionaire with a private-equity past -- has flip-flopped on the issue. In December, the gubernatorial candidate vowed that, should he be elected, he'd cut the minimum wage by $1 to keep it on par with the $7.25-per-hour federal rate.
Weeks later, Rauner backtracked on his remarks, telling the Chicago Tribune: "I made a mistake. I was flippant and I was quick. I should have said, 'Tie the Illinois minimum wage to the national wage and, in that context, with other changes in being pro-business, I support raising the national minimum wage.' I’m OK with that."
Across the nation Thursday, fast-food workers staged walk-outs as part of a growing movement to increase the minimum wage. Obama-backed legislation to raise the federal wage to $10.10 has been in congressional limbo as the issue plays out on the state level. This year, Connecticut, Maryland, Vermont and Hawaii signed off on an hourly rate of $10.10 with 30 other states mulling measures to increase wages.