Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he met with Dr. Ronald Bird, Chief Economist from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy of the US Department of Labor, regarding the minimum wage study now underway to determine the impact of increases on the economies of American Samoa and CNMI.
“I am pleased to report that Dr. Bird has informed me that the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Statistics has made tremendous progress in American Samoa and has already gathered data from our tuna canneries, ASG, and the US Department of the Interior,” Faleomavaega said. “The Bureau of Statistics will also be consulting with our local Chamber of Commerce.”
“Within the next month, Dr. Bird’s team will begin the process of analyzing the data and, in early November, Dr. Bird expects that he will have a draft report for internal review. By January 2008, the report will be submitted to Congress.”
“In addition to his expertise, Dr. Bird has assigned three economists to work on this study and they have devoted serious time and effort to making sure they can provide Congress with the most accurate information about the impact further minimum wage increases would have on our economy,” Faleomavaega said.
“Having met with Dr. Bird on July 25, 2007 and again today, I can say without reservation that American Samoa and CNMI can be confident that the US Department of Labor will issue an objective and solid report. I have every confidence in Dr. Bird and his team, and I thank him and his staff for their hard work and dedication.”
“Their findings will be critical in determining whether or not we will be able to end escalator clauses which now require that minimum wages be increased annually by $0.50 per hour. As I have said before, I support a one-time increase of $0.50 per hour for our lowest-income workers annually by $0.50 per hour but I do not, have not, and will not support escalator clauses, or annual increases, forced upon us without the benefit of knowing whether or not our economy can sustain the increase.”
“This is why I am appreciative that Chairman George Miller of the House Committee on Education and Labor agreed to my request to include a provision in the law which requires the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics to undertake a study to determine the impact these increases might have on our economies. In January 2008, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will submit its findings to Congress. If it is determined that our economies cannot sustain further increases, then I will spare no effort in making sure our economies are protected.”
“For now, I am pleased that the study is underway and that the report will be issued on time. Again, I thank Dr. Bird and his team for the work they are doing and I will continue to keep our people updated as this matter progresses,” Faleomavaega concluded.