Birmingham City Council Ups the Minimum Wage

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The Birmingham City Council’s agenda was long, but all anyone seemed to care about was what the minimum wage would be come Wednesday.

The council passed the initial minimum wage ordinance unanimously in August (Councilor Valerie Abbott abstained), but today, members were divided.

Councilors Kim Rafferty and Valerie Abbott voted against the ordinance. Abbott said she’d received multiple emails from business owners who were worried how they’d comply if the higher wage went in effect tomorrow.

“I think that that’s a little bit of a short notice for businesses in Birmingham to be told that they have to raise people’s wages on tomorrow,” Abbott said.

Abbott also cautioned about starting a fight with the Legislature.

Last year, Birmingham passed a stair-step raise in its minimum wage, with an eventual increase to $10.10 by 2017.

Then, last week, the Alabama House of Representative passed a bill that would stop cities in Alabama from raising their own minimum wages, and that bill is presently being debated in the Senate.

But Council President Johnathan Austin said he was up for it. He and other councilors argued the state should not be involved in local affairs.

“The Legislature is 100 percent in favor of states rights, yet they want to come in and dictate to this elected body, who we were elected by these citizens, what we do and how we govern ourselves,” Austin argued.

The ordinance passed with a six to two vote. But, the law department noted that the ordinance would not take effect until it was officially published, which could be later this week.