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Guam chamber head: No longer about just the minimum wage

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HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — A day after Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero sent a letter suggesting Guam Chamber of Commerce business members may view their employees as “overhead expense” — in a verbal back-and-forth over the minimum wage increase — the Chamber issued a rebuttal Friday.

Christine Baleto

“This issue is no longer about just the minimum wage, but it is about avoiding closure of a business altogether. A great majority of our businesses on the island large and small are employers who genuinely care about their employees, their families and their livelihoods,” wrote chamber board chairwoman Christine Baleto.

The governor on Thursday said she will not support a delay in the implementation of the minimum wage increase from $8.25 to $8.75 an hour starting March 1. The chamber is asking for a six-month delay because of the tourism industry’s downturn, which could cause furloughs.

“When you give your employees a proper living wage, you communicate that you understand their value. It emphasizes that they are a vital piece of your success, not just an expense. And while I understand the cold nature of finances and bookkeeping, I would encourage you to take another perspective and view personnel costs as a worthwhile investment, not a ‘primarily overhead expense,’” the governor wrote to Baleto.

Baleto said the chamber respects the governor’s decision but added the feedback from the business community is that the drop in visitor arrivals means business losses are beginning to mount.

Baleto later added, “If the situation continues to worsen and a business closes down or has to cut its employees and now the owner is the sole employee working to keep the business alive, this is a far greater detrimental effect on our community.”

The chamber’s plea was to encourage GovGuam to be more proactive rather than reactive, Baleto added.

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