Originally Posted Online: July 24, 2012, 6:22 pm
Last Updated: July 24, 2012, 10:36 pm

Schilling backers counter Tuesday wage protest

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By Eric Timmons, etimmons@qconline.com

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Photo: Paul Colletti
Protesters and counterprotesters wave signs at passing cars and at each other during a demonstration on Tuesday, July 24, 2012 in Moline about raising the federal minimum wage.
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Photo: Paul Colletti
Tony Hamilton, of Orion, waves American flags at passing motorists as he stands with other Bobby Schilling supporters in front of the Congressman's office in Moline on Tuesday, July 24, 2012. Dozens of Rep. Schilling supporters turned out as other protesters gathered advocating for a raise in the federal minimum wage.
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Photo: Paul Colletti
John Harvey, of Peoria, leads a group of protesters in front of Rep. Bobby Schilling's office in Moline on Tuesday, July 24, 2012. Several dozen protesters arrived to show their support for a raise in the federal minimum wage and were met with a counter-protest by supporters of Rep. Schilling.

Carl Green just couldn't get his head around the idea of people complaining about not getting paid enough.

"I don't know what their problem is," the Coal Valley man said. "Why would you even go out and look for a minimum wage job?"

Mr. Green was among about 40 supporters of U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Colona, who held a counterprotest in Moline on Tuesday.

About 30 others attended a protest organized by Action Now, based in Chicago, to urge Rep. Schilling to raise the federal minimum wage, which has been at $7.25 per hour since 2009. They said they want that rate raised to $10 an hour to make it closer to a "living wage."

Before the protest, Rep. Schilling's office sent a message to supporters stating, "Some astroturf, Chicago-based, rent-a-protesters are getting paid to distort the Bobby Schilling record in a protest scheduled for today. We need you to help us with a counterprotest."

Action Now spokeswoman Veronica Resa said all the protesters in Moline on Tuesday were from Rep. Schilling's 17th District and none were paid to attend.

Action Now has been working to establish a presence in the Quad-Cities. Its Moline protest was part of a day of action across the country in favor of raising the minimum wage. As a candidate, President Barack Obama campaigned in 2008 for raising the minimum wage but has not acted on the issue while in office.

Lorraine Washington traveled from Peoria for the protest. A chef at Embassy Suites in Peoria, she said she makes $8.25 an hour, the minimum wage in Illinois. At home, she has four children and one grandchild.

"It's hard to feed the kids and pay the rent off $8.25 an hour," Ms. Washington said.

Rep. Schilling's supporters brought a sound system mounted on the back of a truck to the protest. When Action Now demonstrators began making their way to Rep. Schilling's office on 41st Street, Rep. Schilling's supporters cranked up the sound and played the national anthem.

For a few minutes, there was a standoff as the two sets of protesters came face-to-face.

"I'll give you $12 an hour if you come over here and pick up a Bobby Schilling sign," Schilling supporter Jerry Schreiner, of Moline, shouted at the Action Now protesters. The Moline business owner said raising the minimum wage now would lead to higher prices for consumers and layoffs for workers.

Marching with the protesters was state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, who said he was "disgusted" Americans who have jobs and work hard still live in poverty.

He joined a small group of protesters to deliver an 800-signature petition to Rep. Schilling's office, asking the congressman to support an increase in the federal minimum wage.

Rep. Schilling was not present and his spokeswoman, Andie Pivarunas, declined to answer questions about his position on the federal minimum wage. A spokesperson for East Moline Democrat Cheri Bustos, Rep. Schilling's opponent, said she supports raising the federal minimum wage.

Many of Rep. Schilling's supporters at Tuesday's protest let it be known that they did not support a higher federal minimum wage. But at least one, Roberta Hanson, of Moline, said she thought the federal rate "probably needs to go up."