House leaders call on NPP lawmakers to help override minimum wage bill veto
By The Star Staff
Speaker of the House of Representatives Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez announced Monday that the lower chamber will seek to override Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia’s veto of Senate Bill 563, which increases the minimum wage of public employees.
“After the governor turned his back on our public servants by vetoing this measure, we in the Legislature are doing them justice by passing it into law to equalize the government’s minimum wage with that of the private sector that we legislated last year,” the House speaker said in a written statement.
“Senate Bill 563 was originally approved unanimously in both bodies, but the first executive [Pierluisi] vetoed it,” Hernández Montañez added. “The Senate already overrode the veto with 18 votes from the five delegations. Now, it is up to the New Progressive Party (NPP) delegation in the House to show if it is on the side of the workers by voting to override the veto since 34 votes are needed.”
Along those lines, House Labor Affairs Committee Chairman Domingo Torres García said “the only reason that public employees have not received an increase in the minimum wage is because of the inconsistency of the NPP representatives, who first favored the bill but now follow the instructions of La Fortaleza and oppose doing wage justice to government employees who have not received a single raise in their salaries for years.”
Likewise, the vice chairman of the House committee that dealt with the measure, José Rivera Madera, said that “in preliminary information sent by the agencies, around five percent of government employees earn a salary of less than $8.50 an hour, which is why we call on the NPP representatives to vote in favor of giving salary justice to thousands of public servants.”
The trio of Popular Democratic Party legislators also urged island unions to join the House of Representatives in defending the validity of the Labor Reform in the face of the lawsuit filed by the Financial Oversight and Management Board to annul the statute that restores the rights of private sector employees.
“We call on the unions that group workers in Puerto Rico to join as friends of the court in this lawsuit, just as private employers are doing, and to defend, together with us, the restitution of the rights outlined in Law 41-2022,” Hernández Montañez said.
Torres García said meanwhile that “now that the federal court has recognized our authority to intervene as part of this case, we will contradict the fiscal control board and will have the opportunity to present evidence and demonstrate that this initiative should not be seen as an isolated one, but as part of a series of economic reforms that have become law and that will benefit workers and citizens in general, thus strengthening our economy.”
Rivera Madera added that “the [lower] chamber will fight the attempt of the Board and private sector groups to take away rights and impoverish our working class, but we invite all unions to join this cause and present their arguments so that the Court rules in favor of the workers.”
Law 41-2022 restored rights to private sector employees in Puerto Rico that the past administration took away, such as increasing vacation and sick leave, shortening the probationary period, and reducing the hours required to be eligible for Christmas bonus provisions.