Thursday, February 19, 2015

It's time for Alabama to Increase the Minimum Wage

Today, I announced my plans to pursue legislation that will raise Alabama's minimum wage. Right now, we are one of only five states in the nation that doesn't have a minimum wage on the books at all.

I introduced this bill last session, but it was unsuccessful. The Republican supermajority never even allowed it to come to a vote in the committee, and it certainly never had a chance to see the House floor. This year, I'm remaining hopeful about its chances.

Just this morning, WalMart announced that they are increasing employees' wages nationally. This is a big step by one of our country's largest retail employers.

According to Reuters, "Wal-Mart said on Thursday its hourly full-time and part-time workers will earn at least $9.00 an hour, or $1.75 above the current federal minimum wage, starting in April. Current employees will earn at least $10.00 an hour by Feb. 1, 2016."

My bill will increase the minimum wage in three stages to $9.80, then index it to cost of living. The bill is presented as a constitutional amendment, meaning it will simply ask the legislature to vote on putting the minimum wage on Alabama's ballot. To go into effect, it would require a majority vote of Alabama's voters, too.

This isn't designed as a government mandate. I want the legislation to go through a strict review process by both employees and employers before it is implemented.

In the 2014 election, minimum wage ballot initiatives were successful by large margins, even in deeply red states like Arkansas, Alaska, Nebraska and South Dakota.

When we look at the number of working people who are working two jobs and still depending on social safety nets to get by, it's abhorrent. No one who works hard and plays by the rules should struggle to provide for their family in America.

Economic data has shown that a minimum wage of $9.80 would create 1,800 new jobs and give nearly half a million Alabamians a raise. Furthermore, one in three Alabama children live in a home that would be positively impacted by an increased minimum wage.

This is about rewarding hard work and passing those values on to the next generation. When children are raised in poverty, they don't perform as well in school and they become part of the cycle of poverty. This is a critical step to supporting families and breaking the cycle of poverty by giving all children a fair shot at the American Dream.

I'm flexible about finding a solution to increase the minimum wage that the Republican-controlled supermajority will be willing to bring to a vote. We can't keep kicking the can down the road on this issue, and I'm ready to show the leadership the state of Alabama needs.

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