Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he is personally thanking Senator Daniel K. Inouye for including language in the stimulus package that would require the General Accounting Office (GAO) to submit a report on the past and future minimum wage increases in American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).
“During my visit with Senator Inouye on January 30, 2009, he informed me that he would be supporting our ongoing request to undertake a new minimum wage study, and I am appreciative that he did this in the Senate version of the stimulus bill,” Faleomavaega said. “I also thank Governor Fitial of CNMI who has worked side by side with me on this very important effort.”
“Governor Fitial and I met during his last visit to Washington and our offices have been united in addressing this issue for the past two years. While we both agree that our workers deserve long overdue increase in their wages, we are also concerned about the lack of data on what impact future increases might have on our economies. This is why it is so important for a study to be undertaken which will give us a clearer picture about whether or not we can sustain future increases.”
“If the House also agrees to this provision during conference, the GAO will be required to issue a report no earlier than March 15, 2009 and no later than April 15, 2009, which will give us a window of opportunity to present our findings to Congress in case our economies cannot sustain a third increase in minimum wage given the financial crisis the nation is now facing.”
“Chairman Miller and I have briefly discussed this issue and his office has been in contact with mine regarding the significance of this study. While I have requested information from American Samoa’s Chamber of Commerce, we will proceed forward with our data collection efforts which will involve the U.S. Department of Labor, the Bureau of Economic Analysis of the Department of Commerce, and the Bureau of Census at the Department of Commerce. These agencies will be called upon to include American Samoa and CNMI in their household surveys and establishment surveys, in gross domestic product data, and in population estimates and demographic profiles, while the GAO will be required to issue a report this year and every year thereafter regarding the impact of past and future minimum wage increases in American Samoa and CNMI until the minimum wage reaches $7.25 per hour, if it does.”
“The GAO will be required to consider factors that impact rates of employment and the living standards of workers such as inflation in the cost of food, energy, and other commodities, and must also assess how the profitability of major private sector firms may be impacted by wage increases in comparison to other factors such as energy costs and the value of tax benefits.”
“Again, I thank Senator Inouye, Senator Bingaman, Senator Murkowski, Senator Akaka, and their staffs, especially Marie Blanco and Al Stayman. I also thank Governor Togiola and the American Samoa Legislature for their support and assistance, and Governor Fitial of CNMI who has been a true friend to the people of American Samoa. I am hopeful that as a result of our collective efforts we can find new ways to strengthen our economies, provide for our workers, and encourage future investment in our Territories,” Faleomavaega concluded.