By Ryan Velez
Governor Robert Bentley signed the bill into law only days after the city of Birmingham raised its minimum wage to $10.10. Because the law is retroactive, that new minimum wage would be reversed to the current federal wage—$7.25 an hour. The state’s largest city, Birmingham had 12,237 residents and its per capita income was about $19,650 between 2009 and 2013, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
State Republicans fast-tracked the bill with the explanation that a uniform minimum wage was important for Alabama. Republican Senator Jabo Waggoner said that raises in minimum wage could cause employment to “go downhill.” In a statement to Fox News, Sen. Waggoner added:
“We want businesses to expand and create more jobs – not cut entry-level jobs because of a patchwork of local minimum wages causes operating costs to rise. Our actions today will create predictability and consistency for Alabama’s economy, which benefits everyone.”
Not everyone is in support of the new bill. Kyle Whitmire, a columnist for the Birmingham News, said that measures such as these could pose a threat to local democracy, and that “if Birmingham’s mayor and city council want to raise the minimum wage, that should be their prerogative. And if the citizens there don’t like it, then it’s up to them to say so, either pressuring City Hall to reverse course or cleaning the place out in the next election.”
Democratic Senator Linda Coleman-Madison is also a detractor of the bill, saying in a statement that decisions such as these are a major contributor to financial hardship in the state. She and other Alabama Democrats argue that the federal wage is too low for poor working-class individuals to live on. Sen. Coleman-Madison is sponsoring a new bill to make the minimum wage in all of Alabama $10.10.
State laws restraining cities from raising their minimum wage are not unheard of. Oklahoma passed a similar bill in 2014. Arizona also passed one in 2013, but that was overturned last June. According to the Economic Policy Institute, 29 states currently have minimum wages above the federal limit, and 23 local governments have done the same, including those in Portland, Chicago, and Seattle.