MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — While many companies over the past year have raised hourly wages on their own, Alabama’s minimum wage is still at the federal level of $7.25 an hour.

Incoming state Rep. Susan DuBose says she thinks it should stay that way.

“We really need to let the free-market economy do its thing. And if you look at the labor market today in Alabama, it has been working,” DuBose (R- Jefferson and Shelby Counties) said.

DuBose says raising the minimum wage would ultimately pass costs on to consumers or eliminate entry-level job opportunities entirely. She also notes the current hiring market has forced many industries to pay far above $7.25 an hour anyway.

“We’re seeing jobs, $10, $15, $20 for starting jobs because there’s such a shortage of labor,” DuBose said.

But there are still more workers in Alabama earning minimum wage than most other states.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2020 Alabama had one of the highest percentages of workers earning minimum wage at 3%, behind South Carolina at 4%.

Jobs to Move American Southern Policy Manager and former state lawmaker Patricia Todd says raising the minimum wage is long overdue.

During her 12 years serving in the legislature, she brought forward bills to increase the minimum wage, but those didn’t pass. Instead, legislation to limit cities’ and counties’ ability to raise the minimum wage did pass.

“The minimum wage should be well over $20 an hour. A lot of the jobs that are created in Alabama through economic tax incentives pay between $15 and $18 an hour, and that’s not enough to raise a family,” Todd said.

Todd says it’s not possible to live on the less than $15,000 annually a full-time minimum wage job provides in take-home pay, especially now with inflation. She says minimum wage jobs are even harder for single parents, considering childcare costs.

“It’s the children of these families who suffer, who may not have enough food to eat, have access to quality health care. If we really care about children, we’d put our money where our mouth is,” Todd said.

A recent survey from Oxfam American finds Alabama ranks 49th when it comes to wages, worker protections and the right to organize. In those rankings, Alabama is above Georgia, Mississippi and North Carolina, as the survey includes Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.