Connect with us

News

Court allows Birmingham minimum wage lawsuit to move forward

Charlie Walker

Published

on

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals made a decision yesterday to allow plaintiffs to proceed in their endeavor to bring a lawsuit that challenges Alabama’s actions to nullify a City of Birmingham minimum wage ordinance that claims intentional racial discrimination. The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Partnership for Working Families weighed in on the decision in a statement.

“When Alabama’s majority-white Legislature passed a law that would reverse a majority-black municipality’s decision to increase its minimum wage, the intent was clear: to preserve the state’s long-standing racial wage gap in which African American low-wage workers earn up to 27 percent less than their white counterparts,” said Sam Brooke, SPLC deputy legal director. “The discriminatory intent cannot be denied.”

“That disparity is hard to ignore when you see the state going to great lengths to block cities like Birmingham from raising the minimum wage,” said Partnership for Working Families attorney, Miya Saika Chen.

The Court’s decision to allow the proceedings to take place ensures that Birmingham workers will be granted their day in court to prove that the ban on minimum wage increases in majority African-American communities is due to, “long, unconstitutional history of racial discrimination.”

According to the press release, racial discrimination in regard to wage gaps between people of color and White employees is due to a longstanding dynamic of predominantly White legislators passing laws that negatively affect the working conditions and pay of these communities of color.

“Now is the time for us to join together across racial differences and ensure that working people, whether white, Black or brown, can provide for their families and prosper. We need to stand up to wealthy special interests and an old guard that has always rigged the rules in its favor.”

Last year, the SPLC and the Partnership for Working Families filed an amicus brief that supported the lawsuit that outlined the continuing role that race played in Alabama’s decision to block the minimum wage ordinance with the passing of the bill, HB174.

The brief can be viewed at: https://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/filed_-_pwf-splc_amicus_brief.pdf

Public Service Announcement


Two leading national, pro-democracy organizations also released statements on the court ruling.

“In an historic ruling today, the courts found that race may be a motivating factor behind the State of Alabama’s decision to stifle local democracy. The fact that the court could plausibly imply discrimination affirmed a pattern playing out in other states, where majority-white legislatures are abusing preemption laws to perpetuate racial and economic inequity. It’s time for states to stop interfering in local decisionmaking, and let cities like Birmingham do what they do best — act on their unique views, values and needs of their people,” said Kim Haddow, director of Local Solutions Support Center.

The Local Solutions Support Center is a national hub created to counter preemption that threatens local action on policies that promote health, well-being, and equity. LSSC was also established to create strategies to strengthen home rule.

“Preemption isn’t a sterile tool of government — it’s a scalpel that slashes wages for workers of color, and a blade that cuts away the right of local communities to be governed by laws that reflect their values and desires. When preemption is employed in the pursuit of racial discrimination, as the courts plausibly found today, it represents some of the worst abuses of power state government can inflict on its citizens. Thankfully, the working families harmed by this unconstitutional and discriminatory practice will have, once again, their day in court,” said Franco Ripple, spokesman for the Campaign to Defend Local Solutions.

The Campaign to Defend Local Solutions, as seen in The New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, NBC News and Slate, is a Florida-based national coalition of elected officials, organizations and individuals from 43 states, fighting against state preemption of local communities.

The minimum wage preemption law that was passed in 2016, is said to be part of an increasing trend of states inflicting control over local issues pertaining to the economy, discrimination and gun safety, among others. 40,000 workers would have had the advantage to see an increase of the minimum wage in Birmingham, which is 75 percent African-American.

 

Advertisement

Health

Two more inmates at Staton prison die after testing positive for COVID-19

Eddie Burkhalter

Published

on

Two more inmates who had underlying medical conditions and were serving at the Staton Correctional Facility died after testing positive for COVID-19, the Alabama Department of Corrections said Wednesday. 

The latest deaths follow the deaths of two other men from Staton prison who died recently. The virus had spread throughout the infirmary there, and as of Wednesday, 17 inmates and 23 workers at the prison had tested positive. In total, nine inmates have died after testing positive for the virus. 

Billie Joe Moore, 73, who was serving at the St. Clair Correctional Facility, died on June 27. He was being treated at a local hospital for advanced lung cancer and tested positive for the virus after his death, according to the department. 

Henry Robinson, 56, was taken from Staton Correctional Facility to a local hospital for treatment of chronic health conditions and tested positive for coronavirus at the hospital. He died on Tuesday at the hospital. 

Daniel Everett, 74, who had been housed in Staton’s infirmary due to previous illnesses, was tested after another inmate in the infirmary, 80-year-old Robert Stewart, tested positive for the virus and died on June 14. Everett died Tuesday as well. 

Confirmed cases among prison staff continue to balloon. ADOC announced Wednesday that four more workers self-reported positive test results.

An employee at the Birmingham Community Based Facility and Community Work Center, one at the Fountain Correctional Facility, another at the Holman Correctional Facility and one at the Ventress Correctional Facility all tested positive for the virus. 

A worker at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women became the first prison staff to have died after testing positive for COVID-19, the department announced last week. 

Public Service Announcement


Eighty-two of 169 confirmed cases among staff remain active, and 40 of the 70 among inmates remain active, according to the department. Of the state’s approximately 22,000 inmates, 396 had been tested as of Wednesday.

Continue Reading

Health

Camp counselor at YMCA’s Camp Cosby tests positive for COVID-19

Eddie Burkhalter

Published

on

A camp counselor at YMCA’s Camp Cosby in Talladega County has tested positive for COVID-19, the organization confirmed to APR on Wednesday. 

Dan Pile, president and CEO of YMCA of Greater Birmingham, in a statement to APR said that they learned that the counselor had tested positive for the virus Wednesday afternoon. 

“The counselor is no longer at camp and is quarantining from home and is asymptomatic. Parents were notified to pick their children up this evening by 9 p.m.,” Pile said in the statement. “We are taking every step to ensure camper and employee safety including testing of all staff, and we will conduct deep cleaning of all cabins and camp facilities. Out of abundance of caution our next session will be canceled. The remaining sessions are being assessed as further information is received. We are committed to our staff and camper safety with full transparency.”

The 135-acre Camp Cosby in Alpine is a weeklong sleep-away camp for boys and girls aged 6 to 16, according to YMCA’s website. According to the website’s “Camp Cosby 2020 COVID-19 Frequently Ask Questions” page, camp started on June 14 at a 50 percent reduced capacity. 

“We will not allow more than 120-130 campers per session. 5-6 campers per cabins will only be permitted,” the website states. 

Additionally, the camp was to be cleaned and sanitized regularly, hand sanitizer used before entering buildings, hand washing stations were installed throughout the camp and temperature checks at check in and twice daily, according to the website. 

Gov. Kay Ivey on May 21 announced amendments to her “safer-at-home” order that included the opening of summer camps.

Continue Reading

Health

Mobile approves face mask ordinance amid rising COVID-19 cases

Eddie Burkhalter

Published

on

Mobile City Council members on Wednesday voted to require the public to wear masks as the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Mobile County continue to rise. 

The ordinance, which passed in a 6-1 vote, requires individuals — ages 10 and older — to wear masks when in public, including inside of businesses open to the public for a period of 30 days. The ordinance makes an exception for outdoor activities, as long as social distancing is maintained.

That exception does not include parking lots or crowded sidewalks.  

The ordinance is to take effect after its publication in the Press-Register newspaper, according to public notice requirements, which could happen as early as Friday, according to WKRG.

Persons who have trouble breathing because of physical or mental health difficulties, including anxiety, or because they are unconscious, are not required to wear masks, according to the ordinance, read aloud by the city clerk. 

Failing to follow the mask order can result in a $50 fine for a first offense and $100 fines for all subsequent offenses. 

Mobile now joins Montgomery, Selma, Jefferson County and Tuscaloosa, all of which have approved similar mask requirements for the public.   

Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson told Council members before the vote that COVID-19 threatens the city’s health care system and hinders the ability of businesses to reopen. 

Public Service Announcement


“I’d rather see our officers hand out face masks and encourage social distancing rather than issue citations,” Stimpson said. 

Mobile County has added 533 new COVID-19 cases within the last week and 63 on Wednesday. There have been 3,697 confirmed coronavirus cases in Mobile County as of Wednesday.

Councilman John Williams spoke of his concerns over what he identified as vague language in the ordinance, including that masks be made of “suitable fabric,” and he said it’s unfair for police officers to have to decide what fabric is suitable.

Williams was the sole no vote on passage of the ordinance. 

“The doctors have written the prescription. We need to take the prescription,” said Councilman Joel Daves before the vote, speaking in favor of the ordinance. If the city waits until the hospitals are filled with COVID-19 patients it will be too late, he said. 

Councilwoman Bess Rich said it’s a matter of the health and wellbeing of the citizens of Mobile. 

“We can’t afford to shut down, and if this helps to limit the exposure and the stress on our hospitals, and on our health care officials, then it is the least we can do,” said Councilwoman Bess Rich.

Councilwoman Gina Gregory said that while she hates the idea of forcing the people to wear masks, she believes it’s needed to slow the spread of the virus. 

“We got the numbers in from the health department. More cases were diagnosed this week. More people are in the hospital. It is not a hoax,” Gregory said. 

Councilman C.J. Small, who is also president and funeral director at Small’s Mortuary Service, said he’s not a first-responder, but he is a “last responder” and that “the horror stories that I hear when I have different families coming to my office is very, very sad.” 

Heather Hardesty, a resident of Saraland in Mobile County, spoke against the measure and falsely claimed to council members prior to the vote that COVID-19 is a “hoax” and began “the very day the unsubstantiated claims of impeachment against our president ended.”

Hardesty was one of several who spoke out against a mask order, some calling it “tyranny,” while several members of the public spoke in support of the mask ordinance as well. 

One man from the public who declined to give his name and address told Council members he didn’t want to identify himself because of concern over “the pinko commies that let Antifa in here.” The council declined to let him speak without identifying himself, as is required of all speakers. 

“I can assure you that our effort is going to be to help our citizens comply with this order,” Stimpson said after the vote. 

Earlier this week, the city bought 4,000 masks, which police officers will be able to hand out to the public, Stimpson  said. Another 10,000 masks have been ordered and are to be delivered soon, he said. 

“We look forward to working with everybody in the community to make this work, and I really believe that we can make it work,” Stimpson said. 

After the council meeting was closed, a woman in attendance, apparently seated in the public seating area, could be heard to yell “Heil Hitler,” drawing disbelief from some council members, who could be heard on a video of the meeting.

Continue Reading

Courts

Lawsuit claims governor ignored nomination process to appoint probate judge

Micah Danney

Published

on

James "Jim" Naftel II

A lawsuit filed Wednesday is challenging Gov. Kay Ivey’s appointment of Birmingham attorney James “Jim” Naftel II as Jefferson County probate judge place 1.

The suit, filed the day Ivey announced the appointment, alleges she circumvented the Jefferson County Judicial Commission’s nominating process. She should have selected an appointee from a list of three nominees provided by the commission as the state’s Constitution requires, the suit says.

“Because Judge Naftel was not lawfully or properly appointed as Probate Judge of Jefferson County, he is currently usurping, intruding, and unlawfully holding that office,” the suit alleges.

Ivey’s office said she disagrees with the suit’s interpretation of the law. 

“The state constitution gives the governor the authority to fill this vacancy,” said Gina Maiola, Ivey’s press secretary. “Judge Naftel is highly qualified to serve as probate judge, and the governor looks forward to his many years of excellent public service to the people of Jefferson County and the state as a whole.”

Barry Ragsdale, an attorney with the firm Sirote & Permutt, P.C., said that he has no issue with who Ivey chose, only how she did it.

“I frankly have nothing but respect for Judge Naftel,” Ragsdale said. “I think he’ll make a great probate judge. I think he’s going to end up being the probate judge, but it’s about protecting a process that we’ve had in Jefferson County for 70 years.”

Jefferson County was the first of six counties to create such a commission. It originally applied only to Jefferson County Circuit Court, but that was expanded in 1973 to include any judicial office, the suit says — including probate judges. 

Public Service Announcement


Ragsdale said it is important because the process is meant to provide local input into whom potential judges are. Commissioners are local citizens who likely know the people they nominate, whereas a governor probably doesn’t. 

“That takes most of the politics out of it,” Ragsdale said. He noted that before the first commission was created in 1950, George Wallace appointed his relatives to the bench when vacancies opened. A local screening process prevents that, Ragsdale said.

“We have that, we fought for it, and we fought governors for decades to follow the process,” he said.

Ragsdale believes this is a case of a governor simply wanting to exercise power, he said.

“She’s absolutely wrong about what the law says, and we intend to prove that,” Ragland said.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Authors

Advertisement

The V Podcast

Facebook

Trending