Nine months ago, the workers scored a major victory as Birmingham became the first city in the deep south to pass a law enacting a higher minimum wage. At the time, the city council agreed to increase the local minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 by July 2016 and to $10.10 by July 2017. The victory was short-lived as the state legislature passed a law earlier this year, prohibiting cities from increasing their local minimum wage, voiding Birmingham’s ordinance.
On Thursday, Birmingham fast food workers, Alabama’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Greater Birmingham Ministries filed a federal civil rights lawsuit arguing that HB-174, passed two months ago, is tainted “with racial animus”. Most of the Birmingham workers who would have received a pay hike in July were African American, according to Richard Rouco, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs.