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Alabama’s Families Need a Raise

By Rep. Darrio Melton

As a representative of the people, I hear stories all the time. But there is one story that particularly breaks my heart, and that is the story of the family who just can’t seem to make ends meet.

Here in Alabama, we have no minimum wage laws. We pay our employees based on the Federal minimum standard, which is $7.25 per hour. We also conform to all federal laws regarding breaks, sick leave, maternity leave, overtime pay and nearly every other protection that secures rights for the employees of Alabama.

If those Federal laws were to be repealed, as many Republican Presidential hopefuls promised, the working family here in Alabama would have no chance at ever making ends meet.

If the Federal laws were to be repealed, Alabama would have no minimum wage regulations, so you could get paid as little as a dollar a day. If the Federal laws were to be repealed, your employer would have no obligation to pay you overtime for working more than 40 hours in a week, so you could be forced to work seven days a week or risk being terminated. If those laws were to be repealed, your employer would not have to give you a lunch break or allow you to step outside for a few minutes during your shift, so you could be forced to work 12-hour days with no break.

The Republican Supermajority has had a great way of spinning the situation around. They call repeal of worker-protection laws “pro-growth economic policies” and “pro-business regulations.” What they really mean is that they want to allow a company to put profit over people.

I want to protect the people of Alabama from policies that support businesses at the expense of the working family. I think there’s a way that we can all agree on what’s fair without hurting the business or the worker. And I think it’s time we agree on a minimum wage for the state of Alabama.

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Alabama’s cost of living score is an 88, which means living here is—on average—about 12 percent cheaper than the national average. For a family of three (two parents and a child) in Alabama, this means a monthly budget of about $2,716 for the month and $32,590 for the year.

This monthly budget would include $513 for housing, $514 for food, $342 for healthcare, $524 for transportation, $368 in childcare, $208 in taxes and $247 in other expenses. Does that sound about right for your family?

Now, let’s assume that the two parents living in the household with that budget are both working full time—40 hours a week—at minimum wage jobs. They would each bring in $260.12 weekly (with roughly $30 withheld each week for Social Security, Federal, state and local taxes), which means a combined income of $2,254.37 every month.

This family would fall $461.63 short of their budget each month. That would mean a $5,537.52 shortfall every year.

But what if that family got paid just $1.50 per hour more? That would mean an hourly wage of $8.75, which would give the family enough added income to make up the $5,537.52 shortfall and have $690 left over to put into savings or plan for retirement.

The Economic Policy Institute has conducted a study that confirms that a $9.80 minimum wage would create 1,800 new jobs and give half a million people in Alabama a raise.

Because I’m committed to job creation and economic security for the people of this state, I plan to introduce legislation that will increase minimum wage to an amount that allows Alabamians to become economically independent.

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I know we could use more jobs in Alabama, and I know the people in this state can use a raise. It’s time to put the people over the politics and do what’s right for the working families in this state.

Representative Darrio Melton is a Democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010.

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