Bruce Rauner stopped in Elmhurst Saturday afternoon as part of a week-long, 1,000-mile "Shake Up Express" bus tour of Illinois.
The Republican candidate for governor and his running mate, Evelyn Sanguinetti, rolled into the parking lot at Hamburger Jones in a big blue bus at about 1:30 p.m., but not everyone there to greet them were fans.
While little information was shared in advance about where Rauner would be—an employee of Hamburger Jones said she had heard he was coming only an hour before he arrived—a dozen or so protesters managed to know in time to gather well before Rauner's arrival.
The crowd outside the restaurant, made up of union laborers, union staff, Democratic Party representatives, retirees and others, said they were protesting because they believe Rauner does not have the best interest of the "working man" at heart.
"This is just a peaceful protest against a governor (candidate) who we feel is going to be unfair to the common working man," said Brian Hacker, a member of Local 96 Labor Union and a resident of Warrenville.
They all said they want to see Illinois' minimum wage increased from its current $8.25 an hour. The federal minimum wage requirement is $7.25.
Carol Davis of Villa Park works at the Secretary of State's office and is a member of SEIU Local 73.
"It's outrageous at a time when income inequality is the highest it's ever been that Rauner suggested we should lower the minimum wage in Illinois," she said.
Rauner has been under fire after a Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce event last week when he said he advocated "moving the Illinois minimum wage back to the national minimum wage" for Illinois to be competitive. Four states have a minimum wage higher than Illinois: Connecticut ($8.70), Oregon ($9.10), Vermont ($8.73) and Washington ($9.32). California and Connecticut minimum wage will increase to $9 July 1, and New York will increase to $8.75 Dec. 31.
He has been answering his critics about his statement ever since. On Saturday, he clarified that he does not want to lower the minimum wage, and would support an increase to $10, but he wants minimum wage to be uniform nationally.
"I am on record and I'm clear," he said. "I support raising the minimum wage if it's done at the national level, so Illinois then is competitive and equal with the other states," he said. "That's the critical thing."
He said if that is not possible, he still would support a minimum wage increase, but it would have to be done "along with business reform, workers comp reform, tax reform and tort reform," he said.
But most of the protesters outside Hamburger Jones said $10 an hour wouldn't be enough.
"Fifteen dollars is a fair wage, a living wage," said Remzi Jaos of SEIU Local 73. "Not even $10 is going to cut it. It's just not enough in the state of Illinois. How are you going to pay rent? Feed your children?"
Glen Ellyn resident Marian Tomlinson and her husband, Gary, are both retired. They advocate for a minimum wage of $10 immediately, increasing gradually from there.
Gary was a physicist at Bell Labs in Naperville, then ran a scrap metal business for 17 years. He said a passerby began discussing the difficulties employers face having to pay $10 an hour. But Tomlinson doesn't buy it.
"I hired employees, and I paid $10 an hour and more. You can do it," Tomlinson said.
Davis, of Union Local 73, says businesses get all the benefits while workers suffer.
"People are starving. People are losing their homes. People are having trouble sending their kids to school," she said. "It really upsets me. When businesses don't give workers enough money, the worker suffers, but the economy also suffers because there is no money to pump into it, and our state has to pick up the public problem."
She said most lower-paid workers are on government assistance.
"There is no reason businesses should get the advantage while the state has to pay for food stamps," she said.
Rauner, who is a self-made millionaire, said his critics don't like to see that his message of running the state like a business and "shaking up Springfield" is resonating with people because most are part of special interest groups.
"They are making their money from government," he said. "They're here because we're going to shake up those special deals they've got with the corrupt politicians. We are going to stand up and fight for the voters and taxpayers, and they don't like us shaking up the status quo."
He said the first thing he will do when he gets to Springfield is bring in experts in government operations, health care and education.
"That's what (Gov.) Mitch Daniels did when he turned around the state of Indiana," Rauner said. "He's a role model for what I want to do. He brought in 30 superstars from the business community in Indiana and ran the government more like a business, so it's efficient, effective and transparent. That's what I want to do."
This was not Rauner's first visit to Elmhurst. Read what he had to say at Elmhurst College last June: Gov. Candidate Bruce Rauner: It is Totally Within Our Ability to Fix Illinois