House Finance Committee Chairman Ray Gallison’s new bill to remove local control of minimum wage laws is akin to a corporate-funded effort across the country to suppress living wage protections. The tactic is known as passing “preemption laws” and it’s been tied back to the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, the right wing bill mill that drafts corporate-friendly legislation for state legislators.
“Business-backed groups that oppose living wages and paid leave have a serious problem on their hands: polls show that they’re popular,” according to (Bill) Moyers and Company in a report on Oklahoma’s new living wage restrictions. “So-called preemption laws provide them with a solution.”
ALEC-sponsored “preemptive laws” are often cited when it comes to paid leave bills (see here, here and here). A 2013 Economic Policy Institute study by Gordon Lafer (The Legislative Attack on American Wages and Labor Standards) says ALEC suggests that legislators from left-leaning states introduce bills that stop minimum wages from being enacted at the municipal level.
“In many states, big cities are more progressive than the state as a whole. As a result, as of 2010, 123 cities or counties had adopted ordinances mandating minimum wages, living wages, or prevailing wages higher than the state standard,” Lafer writes. “To combat such initiatives, ALEC’s minimum-wage repeal bill abolishes any existing local minimum-wage laws in addition to the state statute itself, and forbids localities from enacting wage laws in the future.”
Gallison, a Bristol Democrat, introduced an amendment to the state minimum wage law on Wednesday that would prohibit cities and towns from enacting minimum wage laws. His amendment reads: “No municipality shall establish, mandate, or otherwise require an employer to pay a minimum wage to its employees, other than the state or federal mandated minimum wage, or to apply a state or federal minimum wage law to wages statutorily exempt from a state or federal minimum wage requirement.”
House Spokesman Larry Berman told WPRI’s Dan McGowan the proposal is a reaction to a $15 hotel industry minimum wage before the Providence City Council. Gallison, who isn’t and wasn’t an ALEC member, supports a much smaller increase to the state minimum wage. He did not say why he wants to limit cities and towns from setting their own rate.