Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that in a letter dated June 6, 2007 he has written to the Honorable Donna M. Christensen, Chairwoman of the House Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, and requested a hearing to be held on the impact of the recently passed minimum wage legislation on the economies of CNMI and American Samoa. A full copy of Faleomavaega’s letter which was copied to Senator Inouye, the Governors of American Samoa and CNMI, Lieutenant Governor Sunia, and the Fono is included below:
“Dear Madame Chair:
As a follow-up to our conversation this morning, I would like to request your assistance in holding an oversight hearing on the impact of the recently passed federal minimum wage legislation on the economies of CNMI and American Samoa. Since the Committee on Natural Resources and the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs have broad jurisdiction for the welfare of the territories, I am hopeful that an oversight hearing will provide vested stakeholders an opportunity to express their concerns about this legislation which increases minimum wage by $0.50 per hour 60 days after enactment and every year thereafter until wages in American Samoa and CNMI are comparable to the States.
Also included is language directing the Department of Labor to begin a study no later than 60 days after enactment to assess the impact of the wage increases, and project the impact of further wage increases on living standards and rates of employment in American Samoa and CNMI. The Department of Labor is federally mandated to issue its report to Congress no later than 8 months after the day of enactment rather than 32 months later as originally proposed.
For your information, no hearings were held by the House Committee on Education and Labor to determine what impact this legislation might have on our fragile, island economies. Furthermore, the language included in this legislation was drafted with little input from myself, the US Department of the Interior, and local leaders of CNMI and American Samoa although Chairman Miller did agree to remove the reporting requirement from 32 months to 8 months, which I am appreciative of. I am also supportive of the initial increase of $0.50 per hour but I do not support mandated increases every year thereafter.
In fact, I believe it is bad policy to mandate escalator clauses with no mechanism in place to cut off future increases if the increases prove too much for the economies of both territories to sustain. Therefore, before the implementation of the new law which is to commence July 24, 2007, I believe it is imperative that the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs obtain testimony from officials from the US Department of the Interior, the US Department of Labor, the tuna canneries, and government officials from American Samoa and CNMI so we can get a better sense of where we are and what Congress needs to do if after 8 months it is determined that the economies of CNMI and American Samoa cannot absorb further increases.
As you know, Section 48 USC 1661 (c) gives statutory authority to the President to administer American Samoa. Executive Order 10264, signed by President Harry S. Truman in 1951, transferred administrative responsibility for the islands of American Samoa from the Secretary of the Navy to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. To date, the authority of the Secretary of the Interior to administer the affairs of American Samoa has not changed. The Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Insular Affairs also has jurisdiction and oversight authority for all US insular areas, including American Samoa, given that the House Committee on Natural Resources has oversight for the US Department of the Interior.”
Faleomavaega concluded his letter by saying, “It is for this reason that I am hopeful that you will hold an oversight hearing on minimum wage increases as soon as possible so that the concerns of American Samoa and CNMI can be made known for the record.”