The House Committee on State Government met Thursday to discuss a bill from Rep. David Faulkner (R-Birmingham), HB174, also called the “Uniform Wage and Right-to-Work Act,” which will establish Alabama as a “Right-to-Work” state, prohibit local governments from establishing minimum leave, wages or other benefits for employees and would give the legislature authority to establish “uniform employment policies and regulations of collective bargaining under federal labor laws.”
Faulkner noted that the bill has taken on unexpected importance due to Birmingham’s recent moves to increase its minimum wage to $8 an hour, with an eye for eventually increasing it to $10.10 per hour.
“We all want jobs in this state,” Faulkner said. “We want this to be a business-friendly state climate. This bill does not set, it does not lower, it does not establish a minim wage. It says let’s maintain what we’ve always had in Alabama.”
After Faulkner’s statements, a public hearing began with Michael Frank, member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the Teamsters Rail Conference.
“I’ve tried to read this bill,” Frank said, condemning the short notice given on the public hearing for the bill. “It doesn’t make any sense to me. Business-friendly is great, but what are we trying to create here? Citizens haven’t had a chance to respond to this. Business has, obviously they crafted this bill.”
Chris Stewart spoke in favor of the bill, noting that a minimum wage hike would stifle hiring and, in doing so, would disproportionately affect people with intellectual disabilities who would be forced to get back on an ID waiver, therefore taking money from the general fund.
Ricky Kornegan, a retired coal miner and mayor of Woodstock, spoke in opposition of the bill on the grounds that the state government should not oversee the decisions of city governments, noting widespread opposition to the federal government’s interference in state government.
Otis McGuire, a representative from Piggly Wiggly, who has seen the effect of Birmingham’s wage hike in stores in the area, spoke in favor of the bill.
“With this type of move, it would negatively impact us,” McGuire said of Birmingham’s wage increase. “It’s not a real complicated issue to us, but it comes down to that thin, thin profit margin.”
Next to speak in opposition of the bill was Joe Keffer, a member of grassroots organization “Montgomery Needs A Raise $10.10,” which advocated for the minimum wage increase in Birmingham.
“What they’re doing is speaking for the businesses, for the wealthy, for the big corporations,” Keffer said. “It puts people in poverty.”
Last to speak in support of the bill was Bill Canary
of the Business Council of Alabama
, who said the bill was an issue in support of small businesses.
“Today the minimum wage has become a political wage issue of the worst type,” Canary said. “The best weapon in the war on poverty is jobs.”
After the public hearing concluded, Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) and Rep. Darrio Melton (D-Selma) offered opposition to the bill.
“I’m a business man and I talk business and I’m a successful business man and I don’t pay a paltry salary,” Rogers said. “It’s a polarizing bill. Y’all know we’re going to be fighting this bill.”
“Big business is making money, the people working these jobs are not making money,” Melton said. “It’s about how we treat our brothers and sisters.”
A roll call vote was taken and the bill received a favorable report along party lines.
If the bill passes the full Legislature, Birmingham’s minimum wage hike will revert back to the federal minimum wage.