Guam – In remarks before the Guam Women’s Chamber of Commerce this morning, Senator B.J. Cruz announced that he will be introducing a bill to increase the minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour 3 years from now.
Senator Cruz said the wage hike would be staggered. He is proposing a $0.95-cent increase in each of the next 3 years.
“We’ve already increased the Government of Guam. If you see the disparities between GovGuam and the private sector, it’s embarrassing. So everyone is having to suffer through that already because of the increases that we’ve done with Competitive Wage Act and so it’s only fair to make sure that those with the lowest wages right now are able to be able to buy that can of Spam and that bag of rice,” said Senator Cruz.
He said he has been considering the idea for some time, and given the support of local economists, he thinks now is the time to do it.
When PNC asked the reasoning for this bill, Senator Cruz said, “In the stats that I presented, we have 12,000 women who are living below the poverty level and we have 6,000 families that their earned income is below poverty level because the fact that they’re just earning $7.25 an hour.”
He said he would rather go straight up to $10.10 but thinks gradually phasing it in will allow the government and private sector to “work together to take care of the most vulnerable in the community.”
Senator Cruz added he’s sure he’ll get the support needed from the Legislature and that the information presented at the forum laid the groundwork for him.
Guam Women’s Chamber of Commerce President Lou Leon Guerrero gave us a summary of the discussion, “Most of the information being brought forward supports the need to increase minimum wage because they talked about the prices of commodities going up but our minimum wage has been stagnant for over 20 years and so our purchasing power and the real value of our wages have been declining.”
Leon Guerrero said local economists believe the increase in minimum wage would benefit the economy because it would give the island a great purchasing power and that businesses will endure and survive. She said even with a few negative impacts in the short term, an increase in minimum wage would be better in the long run.
The forum had three main topics during roundtable dicussion including Gender, Public/Private, and Minimum Wage.
- Limited data
- General consensus – Male have higher ranks/positions because men have the flexibility
- Women usually have childcare to worry about which reduces and slows progress of moving up
- Women advance more quickly than men
- More women attending the University of Guam
- The average pay for GovGuam mployees is $21 an hour while private sector is $13
- People usually stay in government jobs longer
- Considering the compensation package as a whole, GovGuam employees receives more
- However, the government later on won’t have Social Security opposed to private sectors with retirement plans
- People getting paid minimum wage lack education or skills
- $7.25 an hour is not enough to live on
READ the release from Senator Cruz below:
Economists Support Wage Increase, Reject Job Loss Myths
Cruz to Introduce Bill to Increase Minimum Wage to $10.10
(April 10, 2014 – Hagåtña) Following endorsement from both public and private sector economists at the Guam Women’s Chamber of Commerce (GWCC) wage and compensation forum today, Vice Speaker Benjamin J. F. Cruz announced that he intends to introduce legislation that mirrors the proposed federal wage increase from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour by 2017.
According to the Vice Speaker during his speech to GWCC general membership, Cruz has been consulting with Dr. Claret Ruane, Dr. Rosanne Jones, Dr. Joe Bradley, Mr. Gary Hiles and Mr. Albert Perez—all of whom provided evidence that strengthens Cruz’s call for increasing the minimum wage.
“Forty-four, twelve, six; if you forget everything else I say here today, remember those numbers,” Cruz opened, referring the growing number of women who have joined the workforce, which is now 44 percent female; the 12,160 women who live below the poverty line; and the 6,514 families presently living in poverty, 2,874 of which are headed by women with no male contributor present.
Citing alarming aggregates from data collected by both local and federal census, labor and public health agencies, Cruz underscored the rising poverty rates in Guam by emphasizing the diminished purchasing power of the dollar over the last five years that has been compounded by the flatness of Guam’s average hourly wage over said period and the significant increases in living costs.
“[T]oday’s minimum wage would have to be $8.41 an hour just to have the same purchasing power as it did [at the time] the first of three minimum wage increases went into effect in 2007,” Cruz noted, as the audience directed its attention to the graph (see attached Figure 1) in his slideshow presentation, indicating double-digit percentage increases to the cost of housing (24), food (32), medical care (15), electricity (42), and fuel (26) since 2007, according to their Consumer Price Indices (CPI) as reported quarterly by the Bureau of Statistics and Plans (BSP).
“When we are confronted by these truths, we have two choices,” Cruz stated. “We can ignore the fact that too many women—too many Guamanians—are working harder, earning less, and paying more or we can act boldly, recognizing right as well as reality.”
Cruz’s “10-10” proposal will take a phased-in approach, raising the minimum wage 95 cents a year for three years until the hourly rate reaches $10.10 in 2017. Cruz stated that “[d]oing so will allow our business community to adjust.”
While economists in the panel were keen to field questions from the audience about the estimated impact of a minimum wage hike, Cruz was quick to dispel misconceptions about raising the minimum wage that was last adjusted to $7.25 in 2009. “Hourly wages, total employment, and the number of hours worked either held steady or increased when compared to the pre-raise period,” said Cruz, referring to calculations from Guam Department of Labor’s historical data for employment statistics (see attached Figures 2, 3, 4, 5, & 6). “Put simply, the Guam experience says increasing the minimum wage does not kill jobs or cut hours.”