Finally an Alabama Lawsuit Fights Living Wage Preemption

WON THE MINIMUM WAGE BALLOT INITIATIVE 2.2.02New Orleans   The other day I stumbled onto a picture of a press conference in New Orleans in 2002, where our coalition of organizations was celebrating our living wage election victory on February 2nd almost fifteen years ago. We later lost what we had won solidly at the ballot box with New Orleans voters when the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that a law passed by the state legislature in Baton Rouge after we had qualified for the ballot, but before the vote, preempted the ability of New Orleans voters to enact a minimum wage in a state where, effectively, no minimum wage existed. We had already seen the Restaurant Association and others move similar legislation Texas and Colorado in the wake of ACORN and Local 100 ballot initiatives on living wages in the late 1990s in Houston and Denver in order to block repeat efforts along with other states like Florida. Over two decades this has been the industry strategy to block citizen efforts to use the ballot box to make change locally, when we are blocked at the federal and state level.

Now there’s a ray of hope in Alabama where lawyers and community-based organizations have called out the conservative, Republican controlled legislature for racial discrimination. The democratically elected Birmingham City Council had the courage to respond to fast food workers and a many other local organizations pleas about the inadequacy of their wages. This was not some pie-in-the-sky giveaway, but actually a fairly modest program of wage increases, much like the package that President Obama has had before Congress unsuccessfully for several years. The Council action would have raised the minimum wage to $10.10 from the present $7.25 by mid-2017 in a series of bumps. $10.10 is a long, long way from the $15 per hour that has been enacted in Seattle, New York City and Los Angeles, but it is also almost 40% higher than the piddling wage where we have been stuck for years, and that seems to have been what got the Alabama legislators’ goat. Well, that and probably a search-and-destroy party of well-heeled lobbyists raining money and mayhem all around them.

The state NAACP, Greater Birmingham Ministries, and a couple of fast food workers became the plaintiffs and enlisted a labor and civil rights lawyer to take the case and seek to block and overturn the legislature’s effort to interfere with workers’ rights in Birmingham. Their suit is plain-spoken and argues that the legislature’s action was a civil rights violation based on “racial animus” because Birmingham is 74% African-American.

The Wall Street Journal cited research from the National Employment Law Project that in the last five years “legislators in 30 states have introduced more than 100 bills that tried to repeal or weaken core wage standards at state or local levels.” In some ways that doesn’t help the Birmingham case because it illustrates how common and widespread the attack on cities and their workers are based solely on class hatred and struggle.

So, do we have a chance of winning? As long as we’re fighting, we have a chance of winning. It’s only when we stop doing so that we’ve completely lost. So, for the first time in a long time, let’s join together and chant, Roll Crimson Tide, we’re rooting for our brothers and sisters in Birmingham to win this one for all of our teams.

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Please enjoy Bonnie Raitt’s Need You Tonight. Thanks to KABF.

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How Crazy is this Women’s Card Attack?

Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton cheer at her New York primary campaign headquarters, Tuesday, April 19, 2016, in New York
Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton cheer at her New York primary campaign headquarters, Tuesday, April 19, 2016, in New York

Little Rock    Really? You have to be kidding me! In the 21st century what kind of political calculations lead someone to believe that there is gain to be had by attacking Hillary Clinton expressly on the issue that she is a woman? Unbelievable!

I mean really, if the choice is electing the first billionaire or the first woman, who can possibly believe that’s really a choice. Better to play the card than think you can get a better deal with someone trying to buy the deck, the table, and the whole casino.

Where has Donald Trump been the last 70 years? He needs to get his plane out of the clouds. Are women tough enough, geez look what Margaret Thatcher did to the United Kingdom and Indira Gandhi did to India. There’s a case to be made that – right or wrong – men are soft by comparison. Can they lead, look around, and take the measure of Germany’s Angela Merkel who is virtually holding Europe together with her bare hands.

And, yet a Republican analyst was arguing that maybe, just maybe, Trump and his people were being shrewd and trying to “Swift boat” Hillary early on the women’s issue to sow doubt now on one of her significant assets against Trump by casting a shadow on her strengths, just as Bush did to Kerry on his war record. Hillary’s advisors were both jumping up and down over Trump’s wild misogyny and trying to figure out the proper tone of response so they didn’t alienate men.

Geez, my take was different and disappointment more real. Only a day after I had argued that Hillary needed to “go big” and sew up working women’s vote everywhere with a bold proposal for government programs and increased federal support for adequate and affordable daycare and eldercare to rally women, now with Trump’s preemptive attack on her solely over her gender, basically she doesn’t have to swing hard to win the critical women’s vote, she just has to keep standing, and it’s hers.

Even more depressing is the underlying comment about American culture and the continued divide even between race and sex. There is no doubt that a huge percentage of the stubborn resistance to President Obama, both personally and politically, emanates from resistance to his race. Yet, no candidate, big or small, well-meaning or mean spirited, ever was stupid enough to attack Obama precisely. Nonetheless, there is absolutely no hesitancy to attack Hillary exclusively on her gender.

On race, we have finally drawn a line about what is beyond the pale, but on gender it’s still anything goes, the sky is the limit, and there’s no such thing as too low to go. No coding there. No dog whistles to the masses, just straight-up women hating. Explains a lot about everything from the Republicans’ perverse interest in trying to infantilize women on the issue of their bodies and babies and their fear of other orientations from the bathroom to the bedroom.

We all knew this race was not going to be pretty, but we’re now getting a grasp of how humiliating the whole affair may be to all of us as a people.

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