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Ala. QSR workers sue over wage-hike parry

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Quick-service restaurant workers in Alabama have added their names to a lawsuit that accuses Governor Robert Bentley and Attorney General Luther Strange of blocking a minimum-wage hike in the city of Birmingham because of racial prejudice.

In February, Bentley signed a bill into law that prevents municipalities in the state from setting a minimum wage for their jurisdiction. The measure hit the governor’s desk after Birmingham had already approved a hike in the wage to $10.10 an hour. Hourly pay elsewhere in the state would stay at the federal minimum of $7.25.

By outlawing local regulation of the minimum wage, the state made Birmingham’s increase illegal.

The lawsuit filed by civil rights groups and hourly wage earners says the new state law is discriminatory because it impacts African-Americans disproportionately. About 75 percent of Birmingham’s residents are reportedly black.

The tactic is the newest in a broadening spectrum of moves taken by pro-labor forces to prevail over business groups and politicians who oppose a wage hike. Advocates in a number of areas are jockeying to put a wage-hike bill on November’s general election ballot, while others are urging elected officials to raise the wage through executive action, as Governor Andrew Cuomo did in New York.

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