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Mr. GEORGE MILLER of California. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of S. 256.
This legislation includes provisions adjusting the minimum wage schedule for the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands in a way that I think is appropriate and fair for both workers and businesses there.
Current law requires CNMI to increase its minimum wage 50 cents a year until it reaches the Mainland's federal minimum wage level of $7.25. Current law also requires the GAO to regularly report to Congress on economic conditions in Commonwealth over the course of these minimum wage adjustments.
These GAO reports are intended to give the public information so that, based on sound economic analysis, Congress can adjust the minimum wage schedule for the territories if warranted.
The next GAO report is due in April of 2014.
Since 2007 the Commonwealth's minimum wage has increased from $3.05 an hour to $5.55 an hour, an 82% increase in the past 5 years. This has brought new purchasing power and a higher standard of living for many workers than they could have negotiated on their own.
This bill would skip an increase in the minimum wage in CNMI for 2013 and 2015, while still requiring increases in 2014, 2016 and subsequent years.
This approach was recommended by the Saipan Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber stated in a May 8th letter that given the fragile economy in CNMI ``spreading the wage jumps over a two-year period seems prudent.''
This legislation is also recommended by Congressman SABLAN, a tireless advocate for workers and for improving the Commonwealth's economy.
Because CNMI's wages had been depressed for so long, it is a long march of nearly a decade to more than double their minimum wage. In a territory like CNMI, we have recognized that we would need to be flexible with the wage rate schedule over that time frame, as conditions warranted.
Today's bill reflects that need for flexibility. It allows us to review the next GAO economic analysis for CNMI before another wage increase takes effect.
Because of CNMI's unique economic circumstances and relatively undiversified economy, it is appropriate for Congress to adjust the minimum wage schedule in response to changing economic conditions, while keeping our long-term commitment to reaching parity with the federal minimum wage.
I urge my colleagues to support S. 256.
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