Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that the Senate passed H.R. 2, the minimum wage bill by a vote of 94 to 3. The bill was amended but no amendments were offered regarding American Samoa although two, including one from Senator Grassley, were drafted but withdrawn.
“As a result of today’s vote, the House and Senate must now conference the two bills and it is expected that during this time that the conferees will review American Samoa and CNMI’s unique circumstances,” Faleomavaega said.
“Currently, minimum wage rates in American Samoa are determined by federal industry committees as defined by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). While all other provisions of the FLSA apply to CNMI, federal minimum wage laws do not. Although ten years ago I suggested to CNMI that they should come under the umbrella of federal minimum wage law and support Special Industry Committees, CNMI chose not to and thus Congress took action this year by stating that federal minimum wage rates should apply and this language was included in H.R. 2. It is now up to the conferees to determine what will happen to CNMI. If federal minimums are applied, CNMI’s economy will suffer.”
“On January 17, 2007, CNMI government leaders requested my assistance and asked me to intervene in their behalf and I have done so. Senators Inouye, Akaka, and Bingaman have also lent their support and we remain hopeful that the conferees will accept our recommendations to apply Special Industry Committees to CNMI and keep them in place for American Samoa.”
“At the same time, I have requested that language be included during conference to strengthen our Special Industry Committees. While we are in agreement that American Samoa’s economy would be devastated if mainland minimums are applied, it is unacceptable to me that wages for our low income workers have not been raised for years and more insulting was a 3 cent per hour increase that one Industry Committee implemented. I believe that our workers deserve to be paid decent wages under the provisions of Special Industry Committees and I will continue to fight to make sure that this happens.”
“I will also continue to keep our people updated as this matter progresses,” Faleomavaega concluded.