- Associated Press - Thursday, June 30, 2016

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - A group of black Alabama legislators has joined a federal lawsuit alleging that racial bias fueled a state law blocking the city of Birmingham from raising the minimum wage.

The Alabama Legislative Black Caucus and several black state lawmakers on Thursday joined in the federal lawsuit filed on behalf of minimum wage workers against the state. The amended complaint alleged the state’s action violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by taking control of local wages from the majority-black city and giving it to the majority-white state Legislature.

“The persons denied the benefits of the Birmingham minimum wage legislation are predominantly African-American,” lawyers wrote in the amended complaint filed in federal court in Birmingham.

Lawyers wrote that the legislation “reverses a scheme of local control by citizens of Birmingham over the power to enact minimum wages and other terms and conditions of employment in their municipality by transferring that power from the city council elected by the majority-black Birmingham electorate to the Legislature elected by the majority-white state electorate.”

The Republican-controlled Alabama Legislature in February approved a bill that stripped cities of their ability to set minimum wages within their border. The legislation came after the Birmingham City Council voted to raise the minimum wage to $10.10-per-hour. The vote on the bill broke down largely along race and party lines.

“A majority black city ought to have the right to implement a minimum wage,” Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, said. Rogers, one of the lawmakers joining the suit, said the legislation was pushed by white Republicans from the wealthy suburbs.

Alabama has no state minimum wage and uses the federal minimum of $7.25.

Republican lawmakers who supported the bill said the state should not have a patchwork of different minimum wages and argued many Birmingham business owners could not absorb the sudden increase in wages.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley signed the legislation banning local minimum wages because he believed minimum wages should be uniform across the state, a spokeswoman said earlier this year.

The amended complaint also added the city of Birmingham as a defendant in an effort to compel the city to implement the wage hike.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has said his office will vigorously defend state law.

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