Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that the House and Senate conferees agreed to file a new Iraq war spending package which the President could sign before the Memorial Day recess begins. Caught up in the Supplemental bill, which is a spending package that totals more than $120 billion, are minimum wage provisions which will affect American Samoa and CNMI.
“Although Senator Inouye was a conferee, the Supplemental bill was negotiated between the White House and the House and Senate leadership and, therefore, Senator Inouye was unable to offer a compromise amendment which would have ended escalator clauses and increased minimum wage by a one-time rate of $0.35 per hour,” Faleomavaega said.
“Despite the best efforts of Senator Inouye, Senator Bingaman, Senator Akaka, our canneries, their lobbyists, and myself, it is believed that Chairman Miller and Senator Kennedy will move forward with language to increase minimum wage by $0.50 per hour 60 days after the enactment and every year thereafter for the next 8 years. If this is true, I believe the Miller-Kennedy proposal goes too far and will be harmful to the economies of American Samoa and CNMI.”
“As I previously stated, I support a one-time increase of $0.50 per hour but agreed to a compromise of $0.35 per hour. However, I never agreed to escalator clauses and I believe automatic increases are too much, too soon, although I do appreciate that Chairman Miller and Chairman Kennedy have supposedly agreed to review the impact of their policy on the economies of American Samoa and CNMI in the next 8 or 12 months rather than 32 months as originally proposed. If, after the US Department of Labor conducts its review, it appears that further increases beyond an initial increase of $0.50 per hour are detrimental to both island economies, we will then revisit the issue and present clear statements that adjustments need to be made.”
“Even so, I am not in agreement with the Miller-Kennedy proposal and I will be
visiting with Senator Inouye tomorrow to discuss what can be done if the House and Senate agree to pass these measures this week. Given that our workers deserve increases and that our economies must also be protected, I am hopeful that Congress will work with us to find a more reasonable solution to this very difficult problem. As we move forward, I will continue to update our people,” Faleomavaega concluded.