A prominent civil rights groups filed a lawsuit Thursday against Alabama over a law that would ban cities for enacting their own minimum wages.
Republican Gov. Robert Bentley signed the law in response to Birmingham enacting a minimum wage. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) argues the law infringes on the civil rights of Birmingham workers. NAACP Attorney Richard Rouco argues the law reflect a history of racism in the state.
“Unfortunately this is the latest chapter in the long history of the state of Alabama,” Rouco told the Alabama Media Group. “Where a white legislature overrides the authority of a majority-minority city council.”
Alabama Republicans hold a majority in both the state House and Senate allowing them to pass the ban relatively quickly. Alabama was among a handful of states looking to outlaw local minimum wage ordinances. A similar Washington state bill passed the Republican-controlled Senate Feb. 4 but has yet to overcome the Democratic majority in the House.
“This lawsuit is really about a political dispute between the Birmingham City Council and the Alabama legislature,” Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said in a statement to the International Business Times. “Nevertheless, the Attorney General’s Office will vigorously defend Alabama law.”
Minimum wage advocates have seen some of their biggest successes on the city level. The first $15 minimum wage was enacted in Seattle in June, 2014, but it took almost two years before a state passed the increase. New York and California both became the first states Apr. 4 to raise their minimum wages to $15 an hour.
Alabama and Washington are not the first states to try and ban localized minimum wage increases. Oklahoma passed its own local ban in April, 2014, CNN reported at the time. New Mexico Republicans tried to reverse city minimum wage ordinances which had already passed but the measure died Feb. 6, according to the Alamogordo Daily News.
The $15 minimum wage is a popular policy but some experts and lawmakers have expressed concern it may cause economic harm. Critics argue many businesses don’t have the profits to handle such an increase. They may have few options to offset the added cost of labor besides increasing prices, hiring less workers or even laying employees off. In some cases the businesses may have to close.
The NAACP and Bentley did not respond to request for comment by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
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