BY TIM NOVAK AND MARK J. KONKOL
Chicago Sun-Times Staff Reporters
With tens of thousands of Illinoisans in the unemployment lines in the final months leading to the November election, the state's top Democrats and Republicans spent Labor Day sparring over which party is more likely to put people back to work.
Gov. Quinn, a Democrat struggling to hold onto his job against state Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington), whipped up hundreds of union members in Chicago's Millennium Park, reminding them about the 1,200 jobs Ford Motor Co. plans to add this fall at its South Side assembly plant. "They looked all over the United States, and even Canadian provinces," Quinn said. "They picked Illinois.
"I have the best record of any candidate for governor in bringing jobs to Illinois,'' he said. "Sen. Brady hasn't created one job.''
Quinn also attacked Brady for suggesting lowering the state's minimum wage of $8.25 by a dollar to match the federal minimum wage.
At Zion's Jubilee Days Parade on Monday, Brady jabbed back at Quinn by pinning the state's growing unemployment on the governor's policies.
"Gov. Quinn's administration in the last 15 months has lost over 200,000 jobs. In the last month, he's lost 20,000. His failure to address the issues that confront businesses and his lack of connection to the people who are employing people and deploying entrepreneurial capital to keep people working is a disconnect that is hurting Illinois," he said. "His job-killing taxes . . . are what is hurting families in Illinois."
Joining Quinn at the union rally organized by the Chicago Federation of Labor was state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, who's trying to keep President Obama's former U.S. Senate seat in Democrats' hands. Giannoulias is locked in a heated battle with U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, a North Shore Republican.
"We're going to need all of you to get involved," Giannoulias told union members who filled about half of the seats at the park's Pritzker Pavilion. "If you fight for me over these next 57 days . . . we will help these families" who have been hurt by the recession.
Giannoulias reminded the crowd that he helped save 600 jobs at Hartmarx, a suit maker in Des Plaines, while portraying Kirk as an enemy of workers for opposing the extension of unemployment benefits and increases in the minimum wage.
Meanwhile, Kirk, who marched in parades in Schaumburg and Zion on Monday, said "a growing independent voice in Illinois" is worried that Democrats will increase taxes "in the teeth of the great recession."
"Most people in Illinois would oppose the job-killing taxes that Giannoulias and Quinn are going to put forward . . . a 33 percent increase in the state income tax, which would kill more jobs than any other policy," Kirk said. "This is normally a Democratic state . . . [but] we've won the grass-roots war. We've won the fund-raising war and now it's time to win the final battle. This is clearly our year."