Scores of demonstrators rallied at Alabama’s state capitol in Montgomery yesterday to try and halt an effort by the corporate class to kill a minimum wage increase approved by the Birmingham City Council last year before it can be implemented.
Pumping millions into the coffers of their cronies, big business interests have gotten the state House to approve a bill that would roll back an increase to $10.10 an hour in Birmingham. A Senate vote is expected imminently on the same bill, and if the effort is ultimately successful, it would affect some 40,000 workers in the city.
As the American Prospect magazine noted:
“The minimum wage battle has drawn big money in Alabama, which imposes no limits on campaign contributions. The Business Council of Alabama alone gave nearly $1.5 million to Republicans in statehouse races, helping to expand the GOP’s already-strong majority. The group gave $115,000 to the 2014 reelection effort of Republican House Speaker Mike Hubbard, who sets the lower chamber’s political agenda. Hubbard is currently battling 23 felony ethics counts of using his office for personal gain.”
Of course, part of the reason the Legislature is seeking to intervene on this local matter is because they don’t want workers in other cities to get any ideas of pushing for a raise in the wage floor. It’s becoming an increasingly popular idea in states around the country, as similar preemption bills have been introduced in Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota, Montana, Pennsylvania and Washington to curb local wage hikes.
Such behavior, at a time when millions of workers are stuck in low-wage jobs, is intolerable. But when companies are allowed unfettered access to elected officials due to their campaign contributions, it’s not surprising. That’s why everyday Americans from Alabama to Illinois and everywhere in between are standing up and making their voices heard for a higher minimum wage.
If lawmakers believe they only need to be accountable to their corporate cronies, workers lose. It’s more essential than ever that they be counted.