Lawmakers divided over minimum wage legislation

The Legislature's session focused on legislation that would delay the implementation of the minimum wage law. (PNC photo)

During session today, senators tackled the proposed legislation to delay raising Guam’s minimum wage.

Public Law 35-38 was enacted during the last legislative cycle. The legislation provided a two-tier approach toward increasing the minimum wage — the first 50 cents increase took place on March 1, 2020, raising the minimum wage to $8.75 an hour.

Now, the second 50 cent increase is due this year on March 1. This would raise the minimum wage to $9.25 an hour.

Recognizing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on local businesses, Sen. James Moylan introduced Bill 24-36 to postpone its implementation until next year.

At session today, senators tackled the proposed legislation and expressed mixed reactions to the bill.

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Granted that the vaccine has done a lot with moving things forward, Senator Telo Taitague says inflation goes hand in hand with raising the minimum wage. She asked her colleagues to look at a recent UOG economic report to help with the decision to vote on the bill.

“Minimum wage…they are talking about not doing this until 2022…that’s the latest…because they know that the economy and jobs will not be able to sustain it this year,” Taitague said.

Meanwhile, Senator Clynt Ridgell says testimony from UOG economist Roseanne Jones assured that an increase in minimum wage for workers would not be cause for inflationary concern.

“I do understand the challenges that the business community is facing at this time. But also at this time, I stand in opposition to this bill and instead stand in support of the working-class people of Guam,” Ridgell said.

Moylan said many businesses are still in the recovery phase and with bleak tourism arrivals projected this year, it would be unreasonable to mandate an additional cost to businesses at this time.

The bill was placed on 3rd reading.

Senator Amanda Shelton introduced two amendments in support of Guam’s low-wage workers during the session but both amendments failed to pass.