Category: Economy

Birmingham Council Stalls Smithfield Redevelopment, Wants Mayor to Share Plan

The Birmingham City Council has delayed plans for the city to purchase and redevelop the Smithfield Community’s defunct Hill Elementary School property. Mayor Randall Woodfin’s office has proposed that the city buy the school and renovate it for workforce housing. But several councilors argued that they had not been adequately informed of the city’s plans for the property and demanded more information. Read more.

Baby or Puppy? Both Are Relatively Cheap in Alabama

Baby or puppy?

Some people answer the question of whether to have a baby or do a practice run with a puppy by going with what’s in their hearts.

Another consideration, as heartless as it sounds, is cost. Potential grandparent wishes aside, a recent study delineates the costs of having a baby or puppy for the first year of both their little lives. 

“Whether a puppy or a baby is right for you will ultimately be a highly personal decision that we could never hope to answer for you, but the cost cannot be ignored and those costs fluctuate wildly by state,” according to a study done by Honestpaws.com, an online retail outlet offering pet medical information.

Alabama leads the nation as the cheapest state to have a baby and care for it during the first year. It’s also a pretty cheap state to get and care for a puppy that first year. Read more. 

City Leaders Watch Business Licenses for COVID-19 Impact

In a March presentation on how the city of Birmingham’s finances are faring one year into the pandemic, city finance director Lester Smith said business license filings were down about 500 in the first 2.5 months of the year compared to the same time last year.

“My concern is that differentiation between those numbers may be lost businesses, but we don’t know that yet, so we have to continue to monitor it,” Smith said late last month.

Municipal business licenses are usually due early each year and have been an anticipated gauge of the true economic impact of COVID-19.

“The overall concern is that in the municipalities that have seen a downturn in license renewals, is that you have lost some jobs and loss of business investment in your community,” Alabama League of Municipalities Executive Director Greg Cochran told Alabama Daily News. “Ensuring that businesses stayed healthy during the pandemic and stayed afloat financially was a difficult tight rope for a lot of them to maneuver down.” Read more.

Eco Groups File Claim That Alabama Power Charges Unjust Fees on Solar Power

Conservation groups have filed a petition with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, claiming that Alabama Power has imposed “unjust” charges on customers using solar power.

The Southern Environmental Law Center, along with Birmingham law firm Ragsdale, LLC, filed the petition this month on behalf of environmental advocacy group GASP and four Alabama Power customers with solar installations. The petition calls on FERC to compel the Alabama Public Service Commission to enforce federal laws protecting solar customers from unfair treatment by their utility. Read more.

Big Union Loss at Amazon Warehouse Casts Shadow Over Labor Movement

After a nearly two-month-long union election, Amazon warehouse worker Carla Johnson is ready to move on.

“I’m glad it’s over,” Johnson said. “Now I can stop getting the emails, the phone calls, you know, from the union reps.”

Results from last week showed Amazon workers in Bessemer voted more than 2-to-1 against joining a union. Johnson voted to keep the union out because she trusts Amazon – the company treated her well during her recent battle with brain cancer. She also doesn’t believe the union could deliver on promises to raise pay and improve work conditions.

She hopes her co-workers can leave the idea of unionizing behind, but she doubts they will. And she’s right.

“We’re not running away with our tails behind us because there was no victory,” said Amazon warehouse worker Jennifer Bates at a rally on Sunday at the union’s Birmingham headquarters. “There was illegal things taking place and fear tactics that was done to people who didn’t have any idea about what a union could do for them.” Read more.

Alabama’s Unemployment Drops to 3.8%

Alabama’s unemployment rate for March was 3.8%, down from 4% in February.

That compares to a record-low 2.6% in March 2020, right before COVID-19 and precautions to stop its spread led to a double-digit spike in unemployment.

March’s rate represents 84,670 unemployed people, compared to 91,041 in February and 57,895 in March 2020. Alabama is comfortably below the national average of 6%, the Alabama Department of Labor said this morning. Read more.

Redevelopment of Southtown as Mixed-Use Property to Begin in June

The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to rezone the Southtown Court housing project, making way for a mixed-use redevelopment of the property.

Now designated a “mixed-use downtown” district, the property, near St. Vincent’s Birmingham, will be transformed into a development that includes multi-family residential, hotel, office, retail/dining, medical office, parking garage and open space uses. Developers intend to turn the property into a “pedestrian-friendly corridor,” including pocket parks, green spaces and bike lanes.

Plans to redevelop the property, near where a 455-unit housing project now stands have existed in some form since at least 2008. Read more.

Bill to Allow Churches and Small Businesses to Stay Open During Emergencies Goes to Governor

The Alabama Legislature on Thursday approved a bill that would allow churches and small businesses to remain open during states of emergency. It now goes to the governor.

House Bill 103 by Rep. Jamie Kiel, R-Russellville, would allow businesses and places of worship to remain open as long as they comply with any emergency order, rules or regulations issued by the governor and state or local agencies. It would do away with the idea of “essential businesses.”

Kiel has said small local retailers shouldn’t have been forced to close last year under public health orders while big box stores remained open.

Democrats called the bill dangerous and said it could lead to super-spreader events in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, led Senate Democrats in a filibuster of the bill, arguing it put business interests over public health. Read more.

What Labor Wins And Losses In The South Can Tell Us About the Amazon Union Vote

The vote on whether or not to unionize the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Ala. may seem like a once-in-a-lifetime chance for a big union win in the South. Yet union organizers had an almost identical opportunity just four years ago in Canton, Miss.

Back then, Nissan assembly plant workers attracted global pro-labor support. But similar to Amazon, Nissan pushed back hard, determined to keep a union off its floor. 

What happened in Canton, in other southern union elections and in the four years since can give us clues about what to expect from the Amazon vote. 
Read more.