By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday, February 16, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill blocking Alabama cities from raising the minimum wage within city limits.
The legislative action is in response to the Birmingham City Council vote to raise the minimum wage beginning March 1. The Birmingham council initiative would have gradually raised the minimum wage in Alabama’s largest city to $10.10 per hour in 2017.
The state of Alabama uses the federal minimum of $7.25-per-hour.
The Hillary Clinton Campaign for President blasted efforts by House Republicans to set a uniform statewide minimum wage. Prior to the vote, Hillary for America Senior Policy Advisor Maya Harris said in a statement, “It’s wrong that Alabamians work hard for forty hours or more each week and could still be unable to make ends meet. So it’s disturbing that Alabama Republicans are considering legislation to overrule a local government’s actions to require employers in their community to pay their employees a living wage. We should be raising wages, not insisting they are high enough. That’s why Hillary Clinton has called for a $12 federal minimum wage and encouraging states to go even higher. Her top priority as President would be raising incomes, and she stands united with Alabama Democrats and others who are working to block this move by state Republicans to shortchange underserved communities like those in the city of Birmingham.”
House Bill 174, sponsored by State Representatives David Faulkner (R-Mountain Brook) would establish the Alabama Uniform Minimum Wage and Right-to-Work Act. According to the synopsis. In addition to making the legislature the sole authority outside of Congress on the minimum wage, the bill also specifies Alabama’s status as a right-to-work state and prevents local governmental entities from requiring minimum leave, wages, or other benefits for employees, and provides the Alabama Legislature with the authority to establish uniform employment policies and regulations of collective bargaining under federal labor laws.
State Representative Christopher John England (D-Tuscaloosa) said in a statement on Facebook, “The House has adjourned until tomorrow at 4 PM. After a few hours of debate and a cloture motion, we managed to pass HB174 which is also referred to as the minimum wage bill. Expect to see the HB45 (Unborn Infants Dignity of Life Act) and HB37 (Right to Work Constitutional Amendment) when we reconvene Wednesday afternoon. I am not a betting man but if I were, I would put my money on seeing a few more cloture motions tomorrow night. By the way, you will see a number of stories tonight that say that the House passed the Minimum Wage bill. Before you accept that at face value, please read it. Trust me when I tell you, it does A LOT more than the title suggests.”
The Alabama Uniform Minimum Wage and Right-to-Work Act gives the state the exclusive authority through the Legislature to regulate collective bargaining under federal labor laws, and wages, leave, and benefits provided by an employer to employees, classes of employees, and independent contractors.
Rep. England said, “I honestly believe that those decisions should be left to municipalities to make. However, I don’t know if a city has the ability to require private employers to increase their wages.”
Under the bill an employer or employee may seek injunctive relief in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County for violations of the provisions of the bill. Even if a court determines that any portion of this act cannot be applied to a particular county, municipality, or other political subdivision of this state, the act itself shall remain in full force and effect for every other county, municipality, and other political subdivision of this state.
Rep. Mack Butler (R-Rainbow City) wrote, “HB174 which deals with minimum wage has finally passed after much debate and a cloture vote. Vote was 71-31 along party lines. Now up is HB37 which is a right to work bill. This bill failed to get enough votes last week but I predict will pass today.” A little later Butler wrote, “HB 37 has passed the motion to reconsider and we are now adjourned.”
HB37, sponsored by Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) would enshrine Alabama’s right to work status in the state Constitution if the people so vote. The right to work constitutional amendment was part of the House Republicans ‘Right for Alabama’ 2016 legislative agenda.
The Business Council of Alabama (BCA) in their 2016 legislative agenda listed as a priority: “Legislation that would prevent local governments from setting wage, leave, or other labor policies for private employers at levels higher than those already required by the state and federal governments.” “The Business Council of Alabama strongly supports Alabama’s “right to work” status for its benefits to economic growth, industrial recruitment, and job creation.”
While receiving the Business Champion Award from the BCA, Speaker of the House of Representatives Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) told BCA members, “I can assure you that the pro-business legislation is designed to grow our economy.” “This pro-business Legislature is doing the right thing for Alabama.”
Both HB174 and HB37 now go to the Senate.