Levy Ratner’s Robert H. Stroup is among the attorneys representing Birmingham fast-food workers, the Alabama NAACP and Greater Birmingham Ministries, in a federal civil rights lawsuit charging that Ala. Gov. Robert Bentley illegally blocked a measure that would have raised pay for workers in the predominantly black city to $10.10.
The plaintiffs argue that the bill that nullified a raise for 40,000 workers is tainted “with racial animus” and that it violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.
The push to raise Birmingham’s minimum wage to $10.10 followed strikes and protests by local fast-food workers and supporters as part of the national Fight for $15 movement. With cities, states and companies around the country racing to significantly raise pay as a result of the Fight for $15, the Birmingham City Council decided to act to address the city’s low-wage crisis. Council members voted unanimously in 2015 to raise Birmingham’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, making it the first city in the South to raise its minimum wage. But days before the increase was set to go into effect in February 2016, the state legislature passed HB 174 – a bill designed to block the raise – and sent it to Gov. Bentley, who signed it 90 minutes after it reached his desk.
“The state’s move to block Birmingham’s minimum wage increase was not only unjust and immoral, it was illegal too,” said Benard Simelton, president of the Alabama State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “The city council and mayor of Birmingham made a decision they believed to be in the best interest of the citizens of Birmingham, but the state legislature, continuing a long history of discrimination, overturned it.”