Congressman Faleomavaega announced that the minimum wage bill has been attached to the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill and, today, the Committee on Appropriations passed the bill which included an amendment offered by Representative Mark Kirk, a Republican from Illinois, to extend minimum wage rates to American Samoa. However, neither the bill nor the amendment can take effect unless the House passes this bill and only if the Senate agrees.
Furthermore, the House Committee on Education and Labor which is chaired by Congressman Miller, and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) which is chaired by Senator Kennedy, still have control, or jurisdiction, over the minimum wage portion of the Emergency Supplemental bill.
“In other words, it will be up to the House Committee on Education and Labor and the Senate HELP Committee to determine American Samoa and CNMI’s outcome, and both committees have assured us for months that they would work with us,” Faleomavaega said. “I have every confidence that Chairman Miller and Chairman Kennedy will continue to stand with us.”
“In response to Mr. Kirk’s amendment, I spoke to Chairman Obey of the Appropriations Committee immediately after the mark-up and he also has assured me that this issue will be resolved during conference by the committees with jurisdiction over minimum wage meaning the House Committee on Education and Labor, and the Senate Committee on HELP. Chairman Obey said that he wanted to get a bill passed out of the Appropriations Committee without any disagreement between Republicans and Democrats with the understanding that we would resolve our differences during conference.”
“In so doing, no one, not even StarKist or Chicken of the Sea, expected Mr. Kirk to offer up an amendment regarding minimum wage for American Samoa especially since he does not represent the Territory,” Faleomavaega said. “As I stated in a letter which I have also sent to Chairman Obey, it is unfortunate that Mr. Kirk did not contact my office for information given that he knows nothing about our people or our Territory or our economic situation.”
“Had he contacted my office, he would have learned that, according to Deputy Assistant Secretary David Cohen of the Office of Insular Affairs, the Administration supports excluding American Samoa from the federal minimum wage. Despite his failure to get the facts, I remain hopeful that the House and Senate will work together to protect American Samoa’s economy and I will continue to keep our people updated as this matter progresses,” Faleomavaega concluded.