Quick Hit Anthony Burke Boylan Monday August 4th, 2014, 3:15pm

Guzzardi Mobilizes Volunteers To Gin Up Support For Minimum Wage Increase

Saturday afternoon was a gorgeous summer day — a little on the warm side for some — and retired Skokie high school teacher Evie Raffanti spent some time ringing doorbells in Logan Square to drum up support for an increase in the minimum wage.

“If you want me to speak frankly, I’m just really pissed off,’’ said Raffanti about what motivated her to spend her Saturday out talking to people about the issue. “How in the world can you live on $17,000 a year?’’

The figure she cited is about what a minimum wage earner makes in a year.

Raffanti was one of more than 25 volunteers in the canvas organized by State Rep.-elect Will Guzzardi. The soon-to-be legislator was working public events in Portage Park on Saturday, hardly resting up before he reports to Springfield in January to be sworn in.

The minimum wage issue is a central one for Guzzardi, a neighborhood activist and journalist who defeated politically-connected incumbent Toni Berrios in March by running on a grassroots platform of progressive activism. 

“Will’s volunteer base is one that craves being active and engaged on the issues and with their representative,’’ said Melissa Rubio, Guzzardi’s field director who spent Saturday coordinating the effort. “The model he has talked about is more like an alderman, with very close relationships with the community.’’

An increase in the minimum wage is among the most pressing issues facing government officials at every level. A special task force recently recommended the city of Chicago raise its minimum wage to $13 an hour, up from $8.25, by 2018. Voters will have a chance to offer their opinion on a statewide minimum wage increase to $10 an hour via a non-binding referendum on the November ballot.

“The people who worked on our campaign realize it didn’t end on March 18. The battle isn’t over,’’ said Guzzardi, on making the issue of increasing the minimum wage one of his first priorities upon taking office.

While his volunteers pushed for the minimum wage to increase to $15 an hour, Guzzardi realizes that number is unlikely given the figures that have been already established by the Chicago task force and Gov. Pat Quinn. Still, he’s optimistic there will be movement in the right direction if the November referendum shows that Illinoisans are in favor of an increase. Guzzardi also wants any laws raising the state minimum wage to include an annual cost of living increase so the same debate isn't had every five to 10 years.

“When you meet the people who are against an increase, they say minimum wage jobs never were meant to be permanent jobs or jobs on which you raise a family,’’ he said.

“The growth industry today is the service industry. If this is the face of the American economy — like it or not — we have to make these good, sustainable jobs.’’


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