The New York Times posted an Opinion-Editorial (Op-Ed) by Lucas Guttentag on Monday, in which he takes on what he views as racial discrimination in the state to block Birmingham’s minimum wage hike.
In 2016, the state legislature voted in favor of HB174 — also known as the Alabama Uniform Minimum Wage and Right to Work Act — a bill that would block cities from setting individual minimum wage rules. Then Governor Robert Bentley signed the bill less than an hour after the vote, effectively blocking the Magic City’s efforts.
Fast food workers and civil rights groups acted quickly, filing a lawsuit, and arguing that the law was “tainted with racial animus’ since it was pushed by white suburban Republican legislators in the majority-white Alabama Legislature and disproportionately affected black workers in the majority black city,” the Associated Press reported.
In July, a federal appeals court reversed a judge’s earlier ruling to dismiss the lawsuit, saying that “Alabama’s white-majority legislature had discriminated against the black-majority city in barring it from setting its own minimum wage,” according to CBS News.
“As the case moves forward, it could provide similar cities with a legal road map for challenging this modern-day tool of racial subjugation,” Guttentag wrote in his Op-Ed. “These are the majority-black and -brown localities deprived by majority white state legislatures of the authority to enact local ordinances raising the wages of its residents.”
“The court’s ruling is a victory for the more than 40,000 low-wage Birmingham residents who were robbed of a much-needed pay raise and who will now get their day in court,” Guttentag continued. “But more profoundly, this case — originating in a town where America’s history of racial violence faced some of its most pivotal confrontations — could now open the door for communities of color across the country to challenge racially discriminatory laws that deny localities the power to improve the lives of people of color.”