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The Republican way: We’ll tell you what you can do

By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter

A Mountain Brook lawmaker wants to stop Birmingham from increasing its minimum wage.

What better irony can there be? Mountain Brook is one of the richest suburbs in the state and is battling Birmingham, which has high poverty rates, over its decision to increase the minimum wage.

Of course, Rep. David Faulkner, who is sponsoring the bill to undo the Birmingham City Council’s decision to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 on March 1, is a Republican. The Grand Old Party has led efforts nationally and locally to keep cities from raising the minimum wage. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. That is hardly a living wage.

Faulkner’s reason for wanting to derail Birmingham’s minimum wage increase is ludicrous, of course. As are all of the Republican arguments to keep the minimum wage where it is.

Faulkner told the Montgomery Advertiser that the increase in the minimum wage in Birmingham would cause a loss of “entry level jobs” in the city. “We don’t want to see a loss of those jobs. We believe if you’re going to raise it (the minimum wage), it needs to be done at the state level through a process.”

What poppycock. As Republicans have shown, time and again, that “process” is no process. We can’t blame Birmingham for taking charge when the state’s Republican supermajority in the Legislature would not dare do it. The Republicans can’t even write a decent budget, and they’re telling Birmingham it can’t run its own business?

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What Faulkner calls “entry level” jobs are many jobs of the working poor. These are people trying to support families on $7.25 an hour. If Faulkner were sincere, he’d propose a bill to raise the minimum wage statewide. He’ll never do that, though. Not when all those “entry level” jobs are at stake.

I did a ride-around with a Birmingham taxi driver last year. During our evening, we picked up two fast-food workers who needed a ride to work. Birmingham’s notoriously inadequate and undependable public transportation system (thanks state Department of Transportation for nothing. Literally, nothing) isn’t going to get them to work on time. So they pay $15 or $20 to get to their low-wage fast-food jobs.

It’s unlikely Faulkner has ever earned a minimum wage. He certainly isn’t now, even as a lawmaker. Our lawmakers get a really good salary for their “part-time” jobs. It’s no McDonald’s wage, that’s for sure.

And these selfish Republicans, who decry the federal government messing in their business, don’t mind at all messing in Birmingham’s.

If Birmingham wants to raise the minimum wage, it has a right to do so. Waiting on state government to do anything responsible can be a long wait. Like: Never.

If Birmingham voters don’t like it, they can kick out City Council members who supported it. But for the state to tell Birmingham what it can and cannot do is wrong. Flat-out wrong. Council members are elected, just like legislators.

Voters in Alabama do tend to vote against their best interests, however. That’s likely how Faulkner got elected in the first place.

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That’s how we got a Republican supermajority in the State House. It’s why we have a Shelby and Sessions as U.S. senators, and why our congressional delegation is one of the worst in Washington.

There is plenty to criticize about how the Birmingham City Council operates. On this issue, though, the City Council did what’s best for the working poor of Birmingham. Just Birmingham.

Faulkner and the state Legislature should mind their own business. If they really have a clue what their business is.

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every Wednesday for Alabama Political Reporter. His email address is [email protected].


Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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