Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he and Governor Togiola offered testimony in support of ASPIRE at yesterday’s hearing held by the Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife regarding the American Samoa Protection of Industry and Resources (ASPIRE) Act. Faleomavaega will bring a dvd of the hearing to American Samoa when he returns next week for Veteran’s day.
“While I have always stated that ASPIRE is not a perfect bill, I am pleased that ASPIRE has the fully backing of ASG and that every Democrat and Republican who spoke at the hearing said they wanted to help American Samoa,” Faleomavaega said. “Adjustments will need to be made as we move forward, but I am also pleased that the Obama Administration stated that they are also supportive of working with us to save American Samoa’s jobs and economy.”
“I want to especially thank Republican Ranking Member Henry Brown from South Carolina who has visited American Samoa and has a special place in his heart for our people. He knows firsthand what it is like when companies that claim to be American choose to use cheap labor in foreign countries at the expense of American workers. South Carolinians used to be the backbone of the textile industry until their jobs were outsourced to foreign workers who are paid $0.75 cents and less per hour.”
“Today, Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea are following the same model of outsourcing American jobs to foreign workers by buying frozen fish that have already been cleaned by workers who barely make $0.75 cents per hour. Chicken of the Sea and Bumble Bee then hire skeletal crews of 200 or 300 U.S. workers and threaten to lay them off if anyone dares to question their business practices. I do not believe the American consumer will stand for this kind of bullying, and I do not believe Members of Congress will turn a blind eye to this un-American way of doing business.”
“But my goal is to be helpful to the entire U.S. tuna industry. I want our industry to come together and come back home. There is no reason for Chicken of the Sea or Bumble Bee to outsource American jobs when there are plenty of people in this great nation of ours that are ready, willing and able to work.”
“Americans want to work, and American companies that live off the backs of American consumers have a moral obligation to hire America. It’s as plain and simple as that. This is why I thank StarKist for standing with us as we work to keep American jobs in America. These days, StarKist is the only tuna processor left that actually hires workers in America to clean the fish that they put in their cans and sell on grocery shelves. In my opinion, this makes StarKist the only brand of canned tuna that is truly Made in America.”
“While it is unfortunate that Chicken of the Sea and Bumble Bee prefer to buy their fish from foreign sources and exploit cheap labor to maximize their profits, I have given my colleagues my personal assurances that I will modify ASPIRE to make sure that no jobs are put at risk at Bumble Bee or Chicken of the Sea’s canning facilities in California, Georgia, and Puerto Rico. At the same time, I have every confidence that as Members learn more about the tuna industry, they will come to know that no jobs would be lost in California, Puerto Rico, or Georgia if ASPIRE is passed as is.”
“Nonetheless, my goal is to create a win-win situation for everyone and, therefore, I am open to making adjustments. But I am not open to supporting the outsourcing of fish cleaning jobs to foreign countries. This practice must stop.”
“I also want to note that unlike Puerto Rico, California, and Georgia, American Samoa only has one industry, and we must do everything we can to keep that industry alive just as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have done everything they can to keep their rum industry alive. American Samoa is as entitled to tuna assistance just as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are entitled to rum assistance.”
“In Georgia, California, Puerto Rico, Louisiana, Hawaii, the Midwestern and farm states, the U.S. subsidizes beef, dairy, corn, wheat, sugar, rum, and on and on the list goes. Even the U.S. tuna boats get $18 million per year in subsidies. And then we have our U.S. automakers in Detroit, Michigan. They also have the full support of the U.S. Congress.”
“Now it’s American Samoa’s turn. American Samoa deserves equal treatment under the law, and I will do everything I can to make sure we get what we need. We need a tuna subsidy and we need it now. The people of American Samoa do not want handouts or bailouts. We just want to work, and this is the intent of ASPIRE.”
“Our objectives are clear and I look forward to working with my Republican and Democratic friends to modify ASPIRE as necessary so that we can move this legislation forward. With the full support of the Obama Administration, I am certain that we will find a workable solution which will make it possible for us to maintain and create jobs in American Samoa while protecting jobs in Georgia, California and Puerto Rico. I especially thank Governor Togiola and the Fono for standing with us in this cause,” Faleomavaega concluded.