Workers in the city of Birmingham will see higher wages several months sooner than expected.
The city council on Tuesday passed an ordinance moving the minimum wage increase to March 1, instead of its original July 1 implementation.
The Birmingham City Council passed an ordinance in August that raised the city’s minimum wage to $8.50 in July 2016 and again to $10.10 in July 2017.
During the Alabama Legislature’s second special session this month, Rep. David Faulkner, R-Mountain Brook, proposed a bill that would prevent cities and counties from setting a minimum wage for private employers. The Alabama House of Representatives debated the bill before setting it aside without a vote.
The bill has not been filed this legislative session, according to online records.
Last fall, Faulkner said he filed the bill in response to the decision in Birmingham, saying he believes the state needs uniformity instead of a patchwork of minimum wage laws.
Council President Johnathan Austin previously said the two-year period was introduced to allow small businesses to adjust. During Tuesday’s city council meeting, he explained the decision to implement the increase four months earlier.
“The challenge we have now is, if the legislature passes a minimum wage restriction, it could potentially affect the minimum wage increase we passed back in August 2015,” he said.
Council President Pro-Tem Jay Roberson spoke in support of moving up the minimum wage increase, saying it is an innovative ordinance that will help many of the city’s residents who earn the least.
Council members Steven Hoyt and Sheila Tyson also voiced their support. Hoyt said the ordinance is “very poignant in changing the fiber of economic disparity that exists in this city.”
Le’Darius Hilliard, the president of the Jefferson County Young Democrats, said the decision means today is a great day for Birmingham.
“You have to count even the small victories,” he said. “When you’re able to move the minimum wage up locally, that’s exciting.”
The Jefferson County Young Democrats, no longer affiliated with the Alabama Young Democrats as of January, is now a separate, independent county organization, Hilliard said. Leaders of the statewide AYD dispute that claim, saying the local chapter does not exist after its dissolution last month.
While advocates would like to see the wage floor immediately jump to $10.10, they understand that businesses need time to adjust budgets and make other changes to accommodate the increase, Hilliard said.
They have seen the most opposition not from small businesses but larger companies and lawmakers outside of Birmingham. Ultimately, though, it’s about helping the city’s residents improve their lives.
“This means many people will have more access to health care and more food for their families, and they will be able to afford the basic essentials of life,” he said.
Several south Alabama lawmakers recently have said they intend to introduce legislation this session regarding minimum wage increases.
State Rep. Napoleon Bracy, D-Prichard, aims to boost Mobile County’s wage floor to $10.10.
State Rep. Darrio Melton, D-Selma, said he plans on pushing forward two proposals to hike the minimum wage, one of which sets it at $10.10 an hour with subsequent cost-of-living wage hikes. The other proposal ties Alabama’s minimum wage with the federal level, but includes adjustments for cost-of-living increases.
Melton said his proposals would amend the Alabama Constitution, giving voters a chance to weigh in.
Last week, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor Chris Lu visited Birmingham to show that the Obama administration will do whatever it can to support the city’s wage increase.
“Birmingham is really setting a path,” Lu said. “Wherever there is a city or state that wants to take on this fight, we at the Department of Labor and the Obama administration are going to support it.”