The minimum wage is going up a whopping 50 cents, to $3.55 per hour, starting in July 2007.
Meanwhile, the U.S. minimum wage rises to $7.25, in a leap of $2.10. Notably, 30 states already have local minimum wages at that rate or higher.
And still our businessmen, like Juan Pan, complain and cry that this raise will hurt "us." Still, on our local news, we hear conjectures and hopes that there are loopholes, that this wage hike will be limited to one year, that the full effect of 50 cents per year until we reach the U.S. level just won't happen to us, won't be forced on us.
What "us" do these concerns purport to address? Not me. Not the fair businessmen and women here who already pay more than minimum wage. And certainly not the vast majority of people in the CNMI who are adversely effected by the wages kept low by a stagnant minimum wage and a ceaseless influx of desperate foreign workers, while prices continue to rise.
And yet it is these loud protests against raising the minimum wage here that make the news, are heard and repeated, are echoed by our Governor, are shown to represent us.
I am deeply ashamed of the CNMI.
The churches are full on Sundays, and the same people who sit in the pews and "pray" are willing to treat their brothers and sisters in God with contempt and disdain. Is it simply too much for us to share our earthly wealth? And why aren't our priests and ministers speaking out more forcefully about the needs of the poor? Don't all major religions include the precept of the need for charity? Isn't Christianity a promise to the poor, where a rich man will have as much chance of entering heaven as a camel of getting through the eye of a needle? Obviously, there are limits to the faith we share, weaknesses in our practice of it.
Instead of taking a chance on offering a living wage, the CNMI, through its loudest voices, insists that even a small pittance added to the miserable wages paid now will hurt us. What about all the employees, the "us" who are hurt by the constantly decreased value of static earnings?
The minimum wage hike that is now law, as it will be applied to the CNMI, is inadequate and is designed (intentionally?) to sabotage future wage increases. It's enough to force some marginal businesses to close, but it's not enough to do much good for people here to increase their spending or boost the economy in that regard.
I'm glad that the U.S. stepped into the long-time breach in fair wages here. I'm glad that there is some wage increase. But I wish that all of us in the CNMI would raise our voices to drown out the greedy, the heartless, and the users who protest this wage raise.
WE WANT A LIVING WAGE FOR EVERYONE. We support this and more raises to the minimum wage. All together now...WE WANT A LIVING WAGE FOR EVERYONE.