by Chloe Riley
To hammer home his support for workers, the 59-year-old candidate set up a mini breakfast station Monday morning just steps away from a state unemployment agency underneath the 18th Street Pink Line station, where a line some 15 deep had already formed by 8 AM.
In between passing out free coffee, smoking cigarettes, and shaking hands, Mujica paused to chat.
"We're out here because we need people to identify my name," he said pointing to postcards with "Mujica" in bold red lettering. "Everybody tells me, 'Yeah, I know you, I've seen you. You fight for the immigrants,' but they don't know my name.”
In addition to the postcards, Mujica's camp was also handing out money. This was the pretend kind, though—fake $15 bills with a photo of Mujica where one would otherwise find a bust of Jackson or Lincoln. The pretend money is supposed to serve as a reminder of Mujica's stance on minimum wage. Unlike City Hall, which recently approved a $13 minimum wage by 2019, Mujica wants the minimum wage raised to $15 immediately.
Mujica's campaign manager, Mario Cardenas, is a former Occupy activist who met Mujica seven years ago while the 25th Ward candidate was lead organizer for several large-scale immigration rallies in the city. Cardenas said they chose to set up shop near the el stop because of its proximity to the unemployment line and because serving up free breakfast is just a good socialist thing to do.
"Couple years ago during Occupy, there was an Occupy group here called Occupy El Barrio. And we used to do community breakfast. We took the idea from the Black Panthers, who also used to have free community breakfast," Cardenas said.
Those standing in line to collect unemployment didn't have much to say about Mujica or any of the candidates running in the 25th, though one man did say that he wouldn't be voting for anyone because, in his opinion, candidates frequently pull stunts like free coffee during election season, but mostly forgot about people the rest of the time.
But several did accept a hot cup of joe when Mujica came around with the Dunkin' Donuts jug.
Others who stopped by the breakfast station seemed mostly discouraged by current 25th Ward alderman Danny Solis, eager to support someone like Mujica.
"We need a change. It's been a while since Solis has been here," Griselda Carrera, a 55-year-old Rush Hospital worker and life-long Pilsen resident, said. "Whenever we need something from [Solis] he never answers anything."
"I know that Danny Solis is pretty much a rubber stamp for Mayor Rahm and that he's been mostly beholden to downtown interests," said Aboubacar Ndiaye, 27, who also lives just blocks away from a proposed $30 million metal shredder which Solis supports. "I think what the shredder issue showed was that [Solis] wasn't really on the side of Pilsen residents."
Back at the Dunkin' Donuts coffee station, Cardenas blew into his hands.
"Man, election season should be during the summer. A lot more people would participate and vote,” he said.
When asked if he though Mujica stood a chance at beating Solis, Cardenas pointed to the breakfast table.
"Win or not, this is already a victory for us. Getting out issues that regular politicians don't talk about," he said. "The voting rate in this ward is kind of pitiful and the alderman has been here since 1996. What kind of democracy is that?"