Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that on December 9, 2009 the House passed by a vote of 241-181, H.R. 4213, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to extend certain expiring provisions, and for other purposes. H.R. 4213 included the American Samoa Economic Development Credit, which extends 30A credits for tuna canneries operating in the Territory.
“For more than 20 years, the House has agreed to my request to include IRS 936 and later 30A tax credits for our tuna canneries which have provided our canneries with federal subsidies worth well-over $200 million,” Faleomavaega said. “Although StarKist is now competing against low-wage rate countries that pay their workers only $0.75 cents and less per hour, I am pleased that the House agreed to once again pass this tax credit for American Samoa.”
“Unfortunately, for StarKist, 30A tax credits are no longer enough to keep the company competitive, especially when Chicken of the Sea and Bumble Bee have chosen to have their fish cleaned in countries where workers are paid wages of $0.75 cents and less per hour. To help level the playing field, I introduced ASPIRE in hopes that I could get StarKist everything it needed to continue its operations in American Samoa.”
“I introduced ASPIRE to protect the jobs of some 1,800 workers now remaining at StarKist Samoa. I never said it would be easy to get is passed because I knew going in that Chicken of the Sea and Bumble Bee would fight against it every step of the way. Chicken of the Sea and Bumble Bee also have Democratic Members of Congress who represent their interests in Georgia, Puerto Rico, and California. And we must get to a point of compromise before we can move forward.”
“In the end, the bill will look different than the one that was introduced because this is how the process works. It is a process of compromise. But will it be enough for StarKist to stay? I do not know. That is a business decision that only StarKist can make. It is possible that StarKist may find that it is in its financial interest to do like Chicken of the Sea and Bumble Bee and have its fish cleaned for $0.75 cents and less per hour. If this is the case, no matter what our minimum wage rate is in American Samoa, we cannot compete against wages of $0.75 cents and less per hour. This is a global reality that even Congress cannot change.”
“In the conference report to accompany H.R. 3288, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2010, the conference agreement does include my language to delay until September 30, 2010 and until September 30 of each year thereafter scheduled minimum wage increases in American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Chairman Miller supported my request to delay the next scheduled increase until after the GAO releases its findings, and Senator Inouye agreed to include language on the Senate side. H.R. 3288 is now on the President’s desk for signature.”
“Despite this delay and despite the fact that the U.S. federal government has provided IRS 936 and 30A tax credits which collectively have been well-worth over $200 million to StarKist and Chicken of the Sea, and while our local government has also provided millions and millions in tax breaks for both tuna canneries, this still may not be enough, despite our best efforts to keep the tuna industry in American Samoa. Chicken of the Sea has already closed its operations in the Territory, but what I do not understand is why Chicken of the Sea chose to leave American Samoa and hire 200 new workers in Lyons, Georgia when Chicken of the Sea could have downsized in American Samoa and kept 200 workers employed at Samoa Packing. It does not make sense that Chicken of the Sea/Samoa Packing moved to Lyons, Georgia and hired 200 workers at a higher rate of pay when it could have just downsized to 200 workers in American Samoa for less.”
“Whatever Chicken of the Sea’s reasons for leaving, I thank my colleagues in Congress for supporting an extension of IRS 30A tax credits, and I also thank the U.S. Department of Labor for standing ready to re-train our tuna cannery workers who have been displaced as a result of Samoa Packing’s closure. As I stated earlier this year, provisions are in place for our workers to be re-trained at ASCC and receive stipends, food allowances, and other support, provided ASG submits a National Emergency Grant (NEG) application to the DOL. Only ASG can submit this application, and I have not been made aware of where it may be in the process.”
“However, I do thank the DOL for already providing ASG with $24 million in National Emergency Grant funds for purposes of putting our people back to work in the aftermath of the tsunami and, once more, I thank Congress for supporting our efforts for the past 20 years to keep the U.S. tuna industry afloat,” Faleomavaega concluded.