Guam – Senator Joe S. San Agustin introduced Bill 136-35 – a measure that aims to raise Guam’s hourly minimum wage in two 50-cent increments — from $8.25 to $8.75 by Mar. 1, 2020, and to $9.25 by Mar. 1, 2021.
After rolling out the measure, San Agustin said, “Our business community received federal and local tax breaks, and it’s time to pay it forward. Those earning minimum wage are not just entry-level workers. They include our veterans, persons with disabilities and manåmko’. They also include a disproportionate number of women, single mothers, and minorities.”
Wages cannot keep up with inflation, which forces citizens to struggle to make ends meet, according to the San Agustin. “In the call for comments, I got visits, calls, and emails from many making $8.25 or less who struggle to make ends meet. The cost of living continues to rise, but their wages have not kept pace with inflation. The unfortunate reality is that many of our families live in poverty. A dollar raise over two years is a small step, but it may make a big difference in the lives of so many.”
Conversations with the business sector
Meanwhile, on Newstalk K57 with Phill Leon Guerrero, acting governor Josh Tenorio said the administration is open to the proposed dollar increase to Guam’s minimum wage by the year 2021 – but after holding a robust conversation and consultation with the business community.
“So even we had promised, we intend to keep up to that promise with members of the chamber and the business community – to have a very fair and open dialogue about increases in wages and that would include taking a look at the economic situation of the island and seeing what businesses can tolerate,” Tenorio said.
San Agustin said he has met with many small business owners who are understandably concerned about the possible impact of the wage increase on them.
“With input from those meetings, I have revised the bill so the minimum wage will now reach $9.25 in two 50-cent increments. This allows our business community a reasonable amount of time for implementation. I believe it’s achievable and it’s the right thing to do.”
San Agustin met with representatives of the Guam Chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management, or SHRM.
SHRM surveyed its members and found a majority agreed the minimum wage should be increased and the increase should be made in increments.
The incremental changes would allow business owners time to make necessary adjustments so employee benefits may not be affected, according to San Agustin’s office.
SHRM’s human resource professionals are also members of the Guam Chamber of Commerce, the Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association and many other organizations.
San Agustin said, “I know there are differing opinions on both sides, so I encourage everyone to come to the public hearing and provide testimony so we can come to a compromise that works. When people have more money in their paychecks each month, their increased purchasing power stimulates our local economy. When our people prosper, our local businesses grow and our island flourishes.”
Bill 136-35 is co-sponsored by Senators Régine Biscoe Lee, Jose “Pedo” Terlaje, Clynton E. Ridgell, Kelly Marsh (Taitano), Ph.D., Telena Cruz Nelson, Tina Rose Muña Barnes, Sabina Flores Perez, Therese M. Terlaje and Amanda L. Shelton.