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U.S. House of Representatives Washington, D.C.

NEWS RELEASE July 22, 1999


Congressman Eni Faleomavaega recently updated local leaders in American Samoa on his efforts to allay concerns in Washington, D.C. over alleged violations of federal law by the garment manufacturer Daewoosa-Samoa, Ltd.

The Congressman's comments were contained in a letter to Governor Tauese P.F. Sunia, copies of which were sent to Fono leaders Senate President Lutu Tenari Fuimaono and the Speaker of the House of Representatives Aina Saoluaga T. Nua.

Over the past month, the Congressman has met with the president of Daewoosa-Samoa as well as with officials from the U.S. Department of Labor, including Mr. John R. Fraser, Acting Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division. The U.S. Department of Labor has the authority to levy fines and bring other actions against companies which are found to be in violation of federal labor laws, including the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Concerns had been expressed in Washington that the Department of Labor would take action with respect to worker complaints at Daewoosa-Samoa, foreclosing the possibility of those complaints being resolved by actions of the local government. The Attorney General and the Wage and Hour Board under ASG's Department of Human Resources have local jurisdiction over the matter.

"During my meeting with Mr. Fraser, I emphasized the importance of resolving the Daewoosa problems as promptly as possible. I also stressed the importance I place on having employers in American Samoa comply with federal labor laws, and I shared my belief that companies who are unwilling to do this should not be allowed to conduct business in our territory," said Faleomavaega in his letter.

The Congressman also expressed his concern that if the issue is not addressed promptly and forthrightly, American Samoa's control over its minimum wage and immigration could be at risk:

"American Samoa stands to lose a lot if these issues are not addressed swiftly and comprehensively. I believe you are aware of the efforts in Congress to expand the jurisdiction of the Fair Labor Standards Act (including the imposition of the federal minimum wage) to include the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and to include the CNMI within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and the U.S. Customs Service. American Samoa has, so far, managed to avoid being swept into any of these efforts."

Faleomavaega also noted the possibility that foreign workers in American Samoa could end up stranded in our territory.

"On my recent trip to CNMI, I spoke to a midnight rally composed of some 400 foreign workers who ended up unemployed and have become ‘wards of the state.’ The CNMI government has been unable to address the difficult problem of sending these workers to their home countries since no bonding was required of the local employer who brought them to CNMI in the first place. Some of these foreign workers have claimed political asylum and now they are stuck in CNMI with no resolution of the matter in sight."

The Congressman concluded his letter by again offering his help in obtaining a prompt resolution of this issue.

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