|May 2, 2003
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
|WASHINGTON, D.C.—FALEOMAVAEGA MEETS WITH DEL MONTE AND STARKIST CORPORATE EXECUTIVES TO DISCUSS IRS SECTION 936 AND MINIMUM WAGE|
| Congressman Faleomavaega
announced that he met yesterday with Mr. Bill Spain, Vice President of
Del Monte Foods, and Mr. Don Binotto, Managing Director and President of
StarKist Seafoods, to discuss IRS Section 936 and minimum wage rates for
cannery workers. Mrs. Jan Lipsen, Governor Togiola’s Washington lobbyist,
also attended the meeting at the request of the Congressman who wanted
to make certain that ASG would also be represented in the discussions.
“I am pleased to report that we had a very positive and productive meeting,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “Del Monte has agreed to support H.R. 1424, a bill I introduced to make permanent or extend the federal tax benefits provided by IRS Section 936. The Fono has also forwarded me a copy of the Senate’s Concurrent Resolution in support of H.R. 1424 and I am thankful that Del Monte, StarKist, Chicken of the Sea/Samoa Packing and the U.S. Tuna Foundation have united with us to save American Samoa’s economy.”
“Without the federal tax benefits provided by IRS Section 936, American Samoa’s economy will collapse,” the Congressman said. “This is why I believe it is important for me to lay out the history of 936. First, 936 is a part of the Internal Revenue Tax Code which provides federal tax credits and benefits to companies doing business in the insular areas including Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Virgin Islands, etc. As I have said before, 936 has been in place for about eight years and it is now scheduled to expire in January of 2005.”
“Although Samoa News continues to report otherwise, I began work on 936 in July of 2001. In fact, I co-sponsored H.R. 2550 on July 18, 2001 to provide an appropriate and permanent tax structure for the insular areas. Other members sponsoring this legislation included Charles Rangel, Ranking Member on the House Committee on Ways and Means, Phil Crane, Chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade, Anibal Acevedo-Vila (Puerto Rico), Robert Underwood (Guam), and 18 other members of Congress. Although both Republicans and Democrats co-sponsored H.R. 2550, the bill did not pass due in part to concerns that some companies in Puerto Rico were using 936 as a loophole to avoid paying their fair share of federal taxes.”
“Shortly thereafter, in October of 2001, Andean trade legislation was introduced in Congress and both StarKist and Chicken of the Sea/Samoa Packing made a decision to put aside 936 while American Samoa made a decision to put first things first,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “For the future of our Territory and to save the jobs of more than 1,000 cannery workers at Samoa Packing, the late Governor Sunia, the Fono, and more than 10,000 residents of American Samoa joined with me to oppose the Andean Trade agreement and to save our fragile, island economy.”
“As I have said time and time again, our economy is more than 80% dependent on the U.S. tuna fishing and processing industries. A decrease in production or a departure of one or both of our canneries would lead to massive unemployment and insurmountable financial difficulties. Put another way, without the canneries, there would be little need for 936.”
“Thankfully, in May of 2002, we were successful in saving American Samoa’s canned tuna industry and now there is a serious need for us to work together to give our canneries the 936 federal tax incentives they need to stay in American Samoa and compete in the global marketplace. This is why I have had on-going meetings and discussions with the corporate executives from Chicken of the Sea/Samoa Packing and StarKist since October of last year,” Faleomavaega said.
“The President of StarKist flew from Pittsburgh to Washington to meet with me in January and on February 3, 2003, I wrote to the late Governor and the Fono to request their input and support. On March 25, I introduced H.R. 1424 to extend 936 benefits with respect to American Samoa an additional ten years. On March 26, Governor Sunia passed away and out of respect for the loss we are suffering as a result of his passing, I waited until April 7 to forward Governor Togiola and the Fono a copy my bill.”
“I also wrote to the Secretary of the Interior on February 3 of this year and again on April 7. On April 7, I wrote to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Committee on Ways and Means and the Chairman and the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures. On April 8, I forwarded a copy of my bill to Dennis Mussell, President and CEO of Chicken of the Sea/Samoa Packing, Don Binotto, President and Managing Director of StarKist Seafoods, and David Burney, Executive Director of the U.S. Tuna Foundation,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“On April 23, Senator Teo J. Fuavai forwarded me a copy of a Senate Concurrent Resolution expressing full support of the bill I introduced in Congress to keep in effect the tax incentives for our tuna canneries. I am appreciative of the Fono’s support and I am hopeful that we will be successful in our joint efforts to save our economy.”
“At this time, I want to thank the Vice President of Del Monte Foods, Mr. Bill Spain, for requesting a meeting and offering Del Monte’s support on 936. Although American Samoa had its differences with Del Monte on the Andean Trade agreement, I respect the fact that Mr. Spain took the time to come to Washington to introduce himself and extend a hand of friendship to the people of American Samoa.”
“I am also pleased that we had an opportunity to discuss the issue of minimum wage,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “During our discussions, I expressed that I am pro-business and I understand the challenges that our tuna canneries are faced with in competing against Asian and Andean canneries. Both StarKist and Samoa Packing pay their workers in American Samoa approximately $3.60 per hour while Asian and Andean canneries pay their workers less than $0.60 per hour.”
“I understand that it is difficult for our canneries to compete against these low wage rates. However, as I pointed out, StarKist is a billion dollar a year company. StarKist is also the number one brand of canned tuna. In the past, StarKist’s parent company, Heinz, paid its corporate executive $65 million a year in salary, benefits and stock options. At some point, as I explained, I believe that a certain understanding must exist between management and workers.”
“At some point, workers must also be treated fairly. It is not fair to pay a corporate executive $65 million a year while a cannery work only makes $3.60 per hour,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “It is also not fair for management to get bonuses for exceeding sales goals while our cannery workers only get wahoo. As long as these unfair practices continue, I will continue to speak out and speak up for our cannery workers.”
“I will also continue to seek benefits for our cannery workers. If cannery executives can have special health care and retirement packages, why can’t our cannery workers have the same? These are the questions that must be answered and I am looking forward to openly debating these issues at the minimum wage hearings to be held in June of this year.”
“Once again, I want to thank Mr.
Spain and Mr. Binotto for requesting a meeting with me to discuss 936.
I also want to thank Jan Lipson, the Governor’s representative in Washington,
for accepting my invitation to attend the meeting. The meeting was
positive and productive and we are united in working together for the good
of American Samoa,” the Congressman concluded.
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