Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that the Senate has agreed to include language in the Emergency Supplemental calling for the GAO to conduct a study on the impact of past and future wage increases in American Samoa and CNMI.
“I thank Senators Inouye, Bingaman, and Akaka who signed a joint letter with me on March 14, 2008 requesting that the appropriators take action,” Faleomavaega said. “While the Senators and I were hopeful that minimum wage increases in American Samoa and CNMI would be delayed from every year to every two years and that increases would be contingent on a determination by the Secretary of Labor that the increase would not substantially curtail employment, we are appreciative that the appropriators are doing what they can so far.”
“So far, the Senate appropriators have agreed to our request to review the economic impact of further increases in minimum wage, and I am pleased by this development,” the Congressman said. “The review will begin 60 days after enactment of the Emergency Supplemental. On May 22, the Senate passed the Supplemental, and the House will take up the bill when we return to session after the Memorial Day district work period.”
“While President Bush is opposed to the bill because it includes provisions for veterans’ education and domestic programs, it is expected that Congress will have enough votes to override a veto. I am hopeful that this will be the case and, once again, I thank Senators Inouye, Akaka, Bingaman and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for their support. I also thank Governor Togiola, Governor Fitial, the American Samoa Legislature, and the Association of Pacific Island Legislatures for their work.”
“I am especially pleased that the Senate has added language requiring the DOL, the Department of Commerce, and the Census Bureau to separately report on American Samoa and CNMI in its household surveys, gross domestic product data, and in its population estimates and demographic profiles with the same regularity and to the same extent as the Departments collect and report such data for the 50 States. I commend Chairman Bingaman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and Chairwoman Donna Christensen of the House Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Insular Affairs for their initiative and leadership on this issue.”
“I also thank Al Stayman of the Senate Subcommittee on Insular Affairs and Marie Blanco of Senator Inouye’s office for their hard work and tireless efforts on behalf of the people of American Samoa and CNMI. While it is my intent to continue to pursue other measures in the stimulus package which may be considered in June, it is good news for American Samoa and CNMI that we are making progress in determining whether or not our canneries and our economies can sustain further increases for our lowest paid workers making less than $5.15 per hour.”
“Chairman Miller of the House Education and Labor Committee has stated that he does not believe CNMI or our tuna canneries have provided Congress with the compelling evidence needed to hold off further increases in minimum wage. He has also stated that he believed a report issued by the Department of Labor (DOL) in response to P.L. 110-28 was lacking. Now that a new study may be undertaken, hopefully we will be able to get a clearer picture of what is needed to protect our economies while also helping our workers who deserve decent wages,” Faleomavaega concluded.