Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that Senator Inouye has agreed to offer a compromise amendment regarding minimum wage in American Samoa. Faleomavaega wrote to Senator Inouye on May 11, 2007 and asked for his support in offering an amendment which would provide workers in CNMI and American Samoa with a one-time increase of $0.50 per hour, empower the US Department of Labor to determine increases, if any, thereafter, and abolish Special Industry Committees. Faleomavaega also sought the support of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senator Akaka, and Senator Bingaman.
In response to Faleomavaega’s request and after conferring with American Samoa’s delegation which included the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House, Senator Inouye agreed to offer an amendment to increase wages by $0.35 per hour if the canneries and the Governor would also agree. “I am pleased to learn that Star Kist has agreed not to lay off workers if the conferees will agree to our amendment,” Faleomavaega said. “I am also pleased to learn that, according to Senate staff, Governor Togiola has also agreed to support our efforts, and I thank him for standing with us.”
“Last week, I informed our people that the House had once again passed a measure to increase wages in American Samoa by $0.50 per hour 60 days after enactment of the legislation and every year thereafter until minimum wages in American Samoa and CNMI reach that of the United States. I also informed our people on April 24, 2007 that the House had passed this language for the first time.”
“While the intent of the House language introduced by Chairman Miller had the best interest of our workers at heart, neither the economy of American Samoa nor CNMI could sustain a $0.50 per hour increase every year for the next eight years. This is why I have pushed for a one-time increase of $0.50 and additional increases to be determined by the Secretary of Labor rather than the US Congress,” Faleomavaega said.
“In response to finding a balance that helps our canneries, ASG, and our workers, Senator Inouye has agreed to a one-time increase of $0.35 per hour. He has also agreed to provisions which would abolish Special Industry Committees and end escalator clauses and which would empower the Department of Labor to determine future wage increases.”
“Senator Bingaman, Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and Senator Akaka are also supportive and signed a letter to the conferees urging their support. Chairwoman Donna Christensen of the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs and I also signed the letter which was sent out today.”
“It is my understanding that Senator Inouye will offer the amendment on Monday, May 21, 2007, and he has assured us that he will do his best to get the amendment adopted. At this point, we do not know whether or not the conferees or Chairman Miller will support the amendment. But, what we do know is we have done our best to make sure workers in American Samoa are treated more fairly and that our economy is also protected.”
“For this reason, I want to thank Senator Inouye, Senator Akaka, Senator Bingaman, Congresswoman Christensen and Governor Togiola for their support. I also thank Al Stayman, Professional Staff for the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and Marie Blanco, Legislative Director for Senator Inouye, for working closely with my office, the office of the Governor, and our canneries in support of making this compromise possible.”
“I also thank StarKist for agreeing not to lay off workers if we are successful in getting an increase of $0.35 for our cannery workers. It is unfortunate that Chicken of the Sea/Samoa Packing is making no promises. Given that the rest of us are in agreement, I am hopeful that Chicken of the Sea will soon reconsider its position rather than putting our compromise at risk. I am also hopeful that the conferees will support Senator Inouye’s amendment which reflects the hopes and wishes of American Samoa and CNMI,” Faleomavaega concluded.