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Tribal advocates keep up legal pressure for fair political maps; 12-member jury sworn in for Trump's historic criminal trial; the importance of healthcare decision planning; and a debt dilemma: poll shows how many people wrestle with college costs.

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Civil rights activists say a court ruling could end the right to protest in three southern states, a federal judge lets January 6th lawsuits proceed against former President Trump, and police arrest dozens at a Columbia University Gaza protest.

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Rural Wyoming needs more vocational teachers to sustain its workforce pipeline, Ohio environmental advocates fear harm from a proposal to open 40-thousand forest acres to fracking and rural communities build bike trail systems to promote nature, boost the economy.

New report calls for higher wages for Alabama's autoworkers

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Friday, January 12, 2024   

Cars are Alabama's biggest export and the auto industry is a huge employer, responsible for about one in six Alabamians' jobs, about 45,000 people.

But even though the auto industry is growing, a new report contends workers are not getting the benefits they deserve. The "State of Working Alabama 2023" report from Alabama Arise argues the job quality and economic results are not what they should be.

Report co-author Dev Wakeley, worker policy advocate for Alabama Arise, said Alabama autoworkers are paid less compared to those in other states, and there are big pay gaps based on race and gender.

"These companies have reaped huge profits from Alabama workers," Wakeley pointed out. "At the same time, the job quality diminishes year after year, after year steadily."

According to the report, Black autoworkers received only 83 cents for every dollar earned by white autoworkers in 2019. For Hispanic workers, the compensation was even lower, at 78 cents on the dollar.

The report also highlights the absence of labor protection laws, unfair scheduling and a lack of transparency in the incentive process. Wakeley emphasized the challenges have led to auto jobs being perceived as short-term gigs rather than long-term careers, causing increased turnover.

"What we want to see is a return to what enables workers to build a career at these places, raise a family, thrive," Wakeley outlined. "And have total security from the beginning of their employment to retirement."

Wakeley noted underpaying workers has an economic impact reaching the hundreds of millions of dollars. The report suggested the first step in reaching equity and improving conditions for workers is to reform the wage structure.

"The state publishes the figures that companies give them about how many jobs they've created, but at the same time there's not a statutory requirement for auditing those jobs figures," Wakeley emphasized. "We'd like to see, in addition to the monitoring requirements, we'd also like to see prevailing wage standards put into place."

The report also recommends employers end a tiered wage system and what critics called "bad-faith discipline," in addition to working with stakeholders in the local community. Wakeley added when the United Auto Workers announced expansion efforts and workers received pay raises, Alabama plants also began to increase wages.

Disclosure: Alabama Arise contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Poverty Issues, and Health. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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