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Labor Report

Federal Appeals Court Revives Alabama Workers’ Landmark Minimum Wage Lawsuit

Fast Food EmployeeFast food workers in Birmingham have won the latest round in their landmark legal fight against the State of Alabama as they seek to reinstate a minimum wage increase adopted by city authorities in 2015, but later nullified by state lawmakers.

On July 25, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that a lower federal court erred when it dismissed the workers’ lawsuit without granting them a trial. That means the case now returns to the trial court, where the workers will argue that Alabama violated the U.S. Constitution when it enacted preemptive legislation to prevent Birmingham from implementing the higher minimum wage locally.

“We fought hard to win our pay raise, and Birmingham workers deserve to have our day in court to show that the State of Alabama was wrong to take away our raise,” said plaintiff Antoin Adams, a leader of the minimum wage advocacy organization Fight for $15.

Adams’ group is among numerous organizations that have joined the suit on the workers’ side. Others include the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, Alabama Black Legislative Caucus and Greater Birmingham Ministries. Others to file briefs in the case include the Southern Poverty Law Center, National Partnership for Working Families, Local Progress, two university legal historians and mayors from Atlanta and Gary, Indiana.

National Public Radio reported that the case has become a focal point in a much larger conflict between cities and states over the minimum wage issue. The Birmingham workers were the first in the nation to file suit to defend a local minimum wage law against preemption from the state. 25 states have passed preemption laws related to minimum wage. Similar cases have also been filed by minimum wage advocates in Minneapolis and Miami Beach.

“Cities or counties with higher costs of living have increasingly adopted minimum wage increases well above the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour. Then state legislatures fight back by setting statewide caps,” NPR reported.

Alabama is one of five U.S. states without a minimum wage. As such, the federal minimum remains in effect there. In late 2015, Birmingham – a city with 74 percent African-American population – adopted a $10.10 minimum wage. It would directly benefit about 40,000 workers.

But days before the new minimum was to take effect, Gov. Robert Bentley signed legislation preventing municipalities from imposing local minimum wages.

The workers filed suit to challenge the state law, citing it as “the latest example of a long history in Alabama of concentrating power at the state level with the express purpose of denying minority populations local control of matters affecting their own communities,” according an NAACP statement.

The 11th Circuit wrote that the law was “rushed, reactionary and racially polarized.” The court ruled that the preemption law violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection rights. However, the decision was not a total victory for the workers. It merely reopened the door for a lower court trial.

Manufacturing PA Awards Grants to Meet Growing Workforce Needs

manufacturingSince Gov. Tom Wolf launched the Manufacturing PA program last fall, the administration as awarded $8.6 million in funding to industrial resource centers, educational institutions and other manufacturing sector partners across the Commonwealth.

On July 24, the Department of Community and Economic Development’s Deputy Secretary for Technology and Innovation Sheri Collins joined officials from Reading Area Community College, Johnstown Area Regional Industries, Northeastern Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center and other partners in Harrisburg to provide an update on Manufacturing PA, which is part of the governor’s Jobs that Pay initiative.

The state funding includes more than $1 million awarded to nine organizations to develop new, innovative training programs to help more than 350 unemployed and underemployed people, as well as those with personal challenges, to gain the skills they need to obtain employment in the manufacturing sector.

In the Reading area alone, there will be a need for an estimated 10,000 or more production workers over the next five years due to Baby Boomer retirements and projected industry growth. RACC partners with local manufacturers to ensure that students in applicable programs learn the skills to succeed with those manufacturers.

Manufacturing PA consists of a training-to-career grant program, seven industrial resource centers that serve as public-private economic development organizations and the Pennsylvania Manufacturing Innovation Program that utilizes universities and colleges across the Commonwealth to train workers.

For more information about Manufacturing PA, read the full DCED release here and visit the website.

Four Governors Trying to Reverse Boeing Union Vote in South Carolina

Four state governors and South Carolina’s attorney general have filed legal documents with the National Labor Relations Board seeking to overturn a ruling that allowed Boeing workers to vote on creating a new bargaining unit at the company’s 787 Dreamliner assembly plant in North Charleston.

BoeingThe governors of Maine, Tennessee and Mississippi joined the South Carolina officials in claiming that flight line workers’ decision to join the International Association of Machinists poses a threat to the host state’s economy and the nation’s “economic well-being,” according to The Post and Courier.

South Carolina has the lowest percentage of union workers in the nation, a status that factored into Boeing’s decision to establish its Dreamliner plant in the state, the newspaper reported. A spokesman for the state’s chief law enforcement officer defended the AG’s involvement in the private-sector labor dispute by citing the state’s right-to-work law. The AG’s legal department submitted a brief alleging that an NLRB regional office violated board precedent when it allowed a segment of plant workers to hold a certification vote.

State Unemployment Ranking
Ranked Lowest to Highest Rate (Seasonally Adj.)
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Rank State Jun. 2018 Rate Month Diff. Year Diff.
1 Hawaii 2.1  0.1 (0.3)
2 North Dakota 2.6   -    0.1
T-3 Colorado 2.7 (0.1)   -  
T-3 Iowa 2.7   -   (0.5)
T-3 New Hampshire 2.7   -     -  
6 Vermont 2.8   -   (0.2)
T-7 Idaho 2.9   -   (0.3)
T-7 Maine 2.9  0.1 (0.6)
T-7 Nebraska 2.9  0.1   -  
T-7 Wisconsin 2.9  0.1 (0.4)
11 Utah 3.0   -   (0.3)
12 Minnesota 3.1   -   (0.3)
T-13 South Dakota 3.2 (0.1) (0.1)
T-13 Virginia 3.2   -   (0.5)
15 Indiana 3.3  0.1 (0.2)
16 Kansas 3.4   -   (0.2)
T-17 Massachusetts 3.5   -   (0.3)
T-17 Missouri 3.5 (0.1) (0.2)
T-17 Tennessee 3.5   -   (0.1)
20 Wyoming 3.7   -   (0.3)
T-21 Arkansas 3.8   -    0.1
T-21 Florida 3.8   -   (0.3)
T-21 Montana 3.8 (0.1) (0.2)
T-21 South Carolina 3.8 (0.2) (0.4)
T-25 Delaware 3.9 (0.1) (0.7)
T-25 Oklahoma 3.9 (0.1) (0.4)
T-27 Oregon 4.0 (0.1) (0.1)
T-27 Texas 4.0 (0.1) (0.2)
T-29 Alabama 4.1  0.2 (0.2)
T-29 Georgia 4.1 (0.1) (0.6)
T-31 California 4.2   -   (0.6)
T-31 Kentucky 4.2  0.1 (0.9)
T-31 North Carolina 4.2 (0.1) (0.2)
T-34 Illinois 4.3   -   (0.6)
T-34 Maryland 4.3   -    0.2
T-34 New Jersey 4.3 (0.1) (0.3)
T-34 Pennsylvania 4.3 (0.2) (0.5)
T-34 Rhode Island 4.3 (0.1) (0.1)
39 Connecticut 4.4 (0.1) (0.3)
T-40 Michigan 4.5 (0.1)  0.1
T-40 New York 4.5   -   (0.2)
T-40 Ohio 4.5  0.2 (0.6)
T-43 Arizona 4.7   -   (0.1)
T-43 Louisiana 4.7 0.1 (0.5)
T-43 Mississippi 4.7   -   (0.5)
T-43 Nevada 4.7 (0.1) (0.4)
T-43 Washington 4.7   -   (0.1)
48 New Mexico 4.9 (0.2) (1.2)
49 West Virginia 5.3 (0.1)  0.3
50 Alaska 7.1 (0.1) (0.1)
Designates largest month-to-month decline
Designates largest year-over-year decline





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