By Al Henley
This week, the Alabama State Legislature will take up a bill that would drastically improve life in Alabama – for all its citizens. The legislation, introduced by Rep. Darrio Melton, would gradually raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25/hour to $9.80/hour over the next two years.
Raising the minimum wage for hard working Alabamians would have a tremendous impact on both the folks directly receiving a raise and the state’s still struggling economy as a whole.
Those who oppose this measure have tried to paint us a picture of a teenager working a couple hours a week for some extra spending money as the worker who would be impacted. But, the fact is that the overwhelming majority of those who would be impacted are over the age of 20 and working much more than part time. Many of them are supporting children as well.
Currently, under Alabama’s state minimum wage, an individual working full time earns about $15,000 a year. This is well below the poverty level for a family of two. As a result, there are Alabamians working full time who are still forced to depend on public assistance programs simply to put food on the table. This is not good for them or our state. Our workers deserve fair pay for their hard work and Alabama taxpayers should not have to supplement their income because they are underpaid.
When workers are paid fairly for their work, everyone benefits. Not only are they able to support themselves and their families with their hard earned dollars but it lifts the entire state’s economy as well.
Anyone who has watched a news report on the economy has heard business reporters talk about the importance of consumer spending. When consumers spend money, they stimulate our economy and create revenue – without adding to our already overextended state budgets or raising taxes.
This is exactly what would happen by raising the minimum wage. It would put more money in the pockets of hard working Alabamians who would pump it right back into our state’s economy to buy that pair of tires long overdue for the family car or the new school shoes their daughter has been needing or, even, to take their family out to a nice dinner at Applebees for the first time in months.
This economic activity helps all of us.
After spending weeks working on various pieces of legislation trying to limit access to food assistance and unemployment benefit programs for struggling families in the name of encouraging people to get off public assistance and get to work, now, we will see if the state legislature really does value hard work.
If they do, they will raise the state minimum wage giving struggling hard working Alabamians a raise they desperately need and deserve and, in doing so, giving Alabama’s economy a real boost.
Al Henley is the President of the Alabama AFL-CIO.