Just two days after Birmingham, Alabama, bumped the city’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, Republican Governor Robert Bentley signed a bill taking the minimum wage increase away. NBC News reports that the bill signed by the Alabama governor February 26 was fast-tracked through the state legislature specifically to prevent the city-wide Birmingham raise from taking effect.
The new Alabama bill expressly prohibits cities and counties from raising the minimum wage. It also prevents legislation that would require employers to provide benefits or leave time. The bill, which passed Thursday mostly along party line, is also retroactive. This means that by signing it into law, the Alabama governor effectively prevented the March 1 city-wide Birmingham raise from going into effect.
The Alabama governor signed the fast-tracked bill into law within an hour of its passage.
There is no official state minimum wage in Alabama, so currently, employees in the state are dependent upon federal minimum wage guidelines. This means that the minimum wage among the Birmingham workforce (as well as the workforce in the rest of the state) is only $7.25 per hour. The minimum wage increase, which was blocked by the Alabama governor, would have resulted in minimum wage workers making nearly $3.00 more per hour.
Democratic Alabama Senator Linda Coleman-Madison was not in favor of the new legislation banning minimum wage increases in cities and counties. She has, in the past, proposed an amendment to the Alabama Constitution that would raise the minimum wage to $10 per hour statewide.
“Alabama is a poor state. But I say we are poor by choice, because of bills like this that keep people poor.”
The workforce in Birmingham is predominantly African American and low-wage, with many workers working in fast food and other similar jobs.
Supporters of the new Alabama bill preventing cities and counties from raising the minimum wage within their jurisdictions say that the State of Alabama does need one uniform minimum wage, rather than allowing each city/county to determine a minimum wage of its own. Supporters also argued that raising the minimum wage in Birmingham and/or other Alabama cities/counties would lead to job losses. Alabama Senator Jabo Waggoner, Republican, said that if the minimum wage increased, it would be detrimental to the economy.
“I can promise you employment will go downhill.”
Not surprisingly, at least one Democratic presidential candidate has denounced the Alabama governor’s decision to sign the bill into law. Hillary Clinton, by way of her campaign, has come out against the legislation, just days before Alabama’s presidential primary, which takes place Tuesday.
“It’s wrong that Alabamians work hard for 40 hours or more each week and could still be unable to make ends meet. So it’s disturbing that Alabama Republicans are considering legislation to overrule a local government’s actions to require employers in their community to pay their employees a living wage.”
Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s political rival, is also somewhat involved in the minimum wage scandal caused by the Alabama Governor’s signature this afternoon. At a march in support of Sanders scheduled for Saturday in Mobile, Sanders supporters are expected to rally in support of a Bernie Sanders level minimum wage, which is $15 per hour.
City officials in Birmingham are also reportedly unhappy with the Alabama Governor’s decision to block the city-wide minimum wage increase. Common Dreams reports that Birmingham City Counsel President Johnathan Austin released a statement about the legislation signed into effect by the Alabama governor.
“This is a clear indication that the plight of the working class is of no relevance to the GOP. When the same lawmakers who excitedly give millions of dollars in tax breaks to corporations making millions of dollars in profits off the backs of hardworking Alabamians do not require these same for-profit businesses to provide a decent living wage to their employees, it’s a disgrace and shameful.”
It remains to be seen whether the blocking of the Birmingham, Alabama, minimum wage increase bill was politically motivated or simply motivated financially. Alabama is traditionally a very “red” Republican state, but Birmingham is one of the most liberal cities in the South. Only time will tell what, if any, impact this decision by the Alabama governor will have on the state economy or upcoming 2016 presidential race.
[Image Courtesy Of @ATLRaiseUp/Twitter]