Minimum wage hike could be law in days

FORUM: Dr. Roseann Jones with the University of Guam school of business and public administration speaks on the impacts of a minimum wage raise during a forum held in the Hyatt Regency Guam Resort in Tumon in May. Dontana Keraskes/The Guam Daily Post

Guam's thousands of minimum wage earners are less than two weeks away from the expected signing of legislation that would increase the hourly minimum wage next year by 50 cents and another 50 cents in 2021.

The governor has 10 working days from her receipt of the minimum wage increase legislation Monday to sign it into law. That means her deadline is Oct. 18.

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said Monday she will sign the bill that would raise the minimum wage on Guam to $9.25 an hour over the next two years.

The first increment would take effect on March 1, 2020, raising the current minimum wage from $8.25 to $8.75 an hour.

The next 50-cent raise would take effect March 1, 2021, lifting the minimum wage to $9.25 hourly.

“I hear it has no amendments,” the governor said to reporters following a proclamation signing at the governor's complex at Adelup. “My initial reading of it (is) I’m supportive of it.”

Bill 136-35 was passed unanimously on Friday with all 15 Guam senators voting in favor of the measure.

On Saturday, the Guam Chamber of Commerce issued a statement expressing its “disappointment.”

The governor wasn't surprised.

“I would have been surprised if they were not disappointed,” said the governor. She said the business organization's leaders  “have always been non-supportive” when the minimum wage issue comes up.

The Chamber statement characterized lawmakers of “failing the community by not effectively addressing the cost of living and the cost of doing business on Guam.”

“I’m just sad that they have that kind of reaction,” said the governor. “I think it should be seen more in a positive kind of way.”

“I think that with a minimum age increase they’re giving our people more buying power and of course businesses benefit from that,” the governor added.

A 2017 survey for the Guam Department of Labor asked households with members earning less than $10.10 per hour how a Guam minimum wage increase would affect them.

Respondents surveyed said they feel they will have the ability to pay off more bills, take more leisure time, put more money away in savings, and overall feel more financially secure, the study stated.  

The legislation offered a compromise to a previous proposal to raise the minimum wage to more than $10 an hour.

If the federal government raises the minimum wage across the board to a level higher than Guam's, the federal rate applies.

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