Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley signed a bill Thursday barring cities and towns from setting their own minimum wage just as Birmingham was set to raise it to $10.10.
The legislation’s passage came after the Birmingham City Council voted to increase the city’s minimum wage, according to AL.com.
The block drew criticism from Birmingham council leader Jonathan Austin who said “we will continue to work together to stand and fight for our citizens.”
“It’s certainly is unfortunate, if it stands up, it is a loss for those who deserve to earn a livable wage in the city of Birmingham, and, for that matter, the state of Alabama,” Austin said. “But the state obviously disagrees.”
Bentley signed the bill less than an hour after it was passed, AL.com reported.
Alabama has no state minimum wage and has used the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour since 2009 when it was last raised. The Guardian noted that a full-time employee who works for the entire year will only earn $15,080 per year.
State senator Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills, argued Thursday that an increased minimum wage would stall economic development in the state. He claims business owners contacted him and asked him if they would have to close up shop because of a possible increased minimum wage, according to The Guardian.
“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,” Waggoner said.
Alabama Democrats have said the federal minimum wage is too low for the working poor with families to survive on.
“Somebody has to recognize that we have a working-poor class of people that are not just in Birmingham,” state senator Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham, said. She added that she is sponsoring a new bill that will make the minimum wage in all of Alabama $10.10.
“We don’t move until we’re forced to move. For once, I’d like for this legislative body to be the leader.”
Birmingham, the state’s largest city, is home to 212,237 residents and its per capita income was about $19,650 between 2009 and 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
In 2014, Oklahoma also passed a bill keeping cities from raising their minimum wage. Arizona passed a similar law in 2013, but it was overturned last June.