Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he is meeting with StarKist, Chicken of the Sea/Samoa Packing, Del Monte, the US tuna boat owners, and representatives from Thai Union to discuss minimum wage. The meeting will take place in San Diego on Friday June 22, 2007.
“In advance of this meeting, I have written to our canneries and the American Samoa Government (ASG) and reiterated that I support a one-time increase of $0.50 per hour for our lowest income workers,” Faleomavaega said. “However, I do not, have not, and will not support escalator clauses which mandate yearly wage increases of $0.50 per hour.”
“For this reason, I appreciate that Chairman George Miller of the House Committee on Labor and Education included a provision directing the Department of Labor to begin a study about the impact escalator clauses may have on our economy, and to issue its report to Congress in 8 months rather than 32 months as initially proposed. This report acts as a safety valve, of sorts. If it is determined that the economies of CNMI and American Samoa cannot afford additional increases, then Congress will reconsider escalator clauses.”
“As this study is being undertaken, I believe it is critical that our tuna canneries and local government step forward and make their case. This is why on June 6, 2007 I wrote to the Honorable Donna Christensen, Chairwoman of the Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, and requested that she hold a hearing on the impact of the new federal minimum wage law on the economies of American Samoa and CNMI. I have also requested that the US Department of the Interior, the US Department of Labor, StarKist, Chicken of the Sea, ASG, the US tuna boat owners, and other vested stakeholders be invited to testify at this hearing.”
“In the interim, I have also asked both canneries to provide my office with information pertinent to convincing Congress that they cannot afford further increases,” Faleomavaega said. “Plainly speaking, I have requested information regarding the salaries and number of employees of our canneries.”
“Of course, I expect that they keep individual information confidential while providing my office with a breakdown of management and labor salaries. Certainly including the salaries of management, without identifying individuals, will be helpful as Congress tries to balance the interests of workers and employers.” In a letter of June 21 to Governor Togiola and copied to the Lieutenant Governor and Fono, Faleomavaega also requested the same information from the American Samoa Government.
“While I await this information, I will be meeting with our canneries and US tuna boat owners in San Diego to begin the process of putting in place a strategy and a plan that will be beneficial to our canneries and our workers. As always, I welcome the input of our Governor and local leaders,” Faleomavaega concluded.