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Martin Sheen Calls On Lawmakers to Raise Illinois' Minimum Wage

By Quinn Ford | March 13, 2014 1:01pm
 Award-winning actor Martin Sheen came to St. Pius Church in Pilsen Thursday morning to call on Illinois lawmakers to raise the minimum wage.
Martin Sheen Pushes For Minimum Wage Increase
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PILSEN — Barack Obama is not the only president calling for a higher minimum wage.

Actor Martin Sheen visited St. Pius Church in Pilsen Thursday morning to call on state lawmakers to raise the Illinois minimum wage to $10 per hour.

Sheen, who portrayed President Josiah "Jed" Bartlet on TV's "The West Wing," said raising the minimum wage should not be about politics.

"This is far less a political issues than a moral one," he said. "The people that oppose it should try to live on that in today's market. We know it's not possible."

The current minimum wage in Illinois is $8.25, a dollar higher than the federal minimum wage.

Both President Barack Obama and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn have called on lawmakers to raise the minimum wage to $10 per hour.

Martin Sheen Pushes For Minimum Wage Increase
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DNAinfo/Quinn Ford

Sheen joined Quinn Thursday in pushing for the wage bump. The star of films such as "Apocalypse Now" and "Wall Street" cited his Catholic faith in arguing for the increase.

"I've been an actor all my life," Sheen said. "That's what I do for a living, but activism is what I do to stay alive."

Thursday was not the first time Sheen had met Quinn. The actor personally lobbied for Quinn to sign a 2011 bill to abolish Illinois' death penalty.

Sheen now joins Quinn and state Democrats who have been calling for a minimum wage hike for more than a year. Quinn, who is expected to easily win the Democratic primary Tuesday heading into November's gubernatorial election, also said the push for a higher wage was not about politics.

"There's a principle as old as the Bible that if you work 40 hours a week and do things right, you shouldn't have to live in poverty," Quinn said. "That's a fundamental principle we all believe in."

Opponents of an increase argue Illinois employers simply cannot afford it. Illinois has the sixth highest minimum wage in the nation and a higher minimum wage than all neighboring states, according to the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. Critics say raising the minimum wage will lead businesses to lay off more workers.

When asked if he had the support to pass a minimum wage bill, Quinn said he had been speaking regularly with legislative leaders about putting together the necessary votes.

"This issue is front and center," Quinn said.