AMERICAN SAMOA LOBBIES AGAINST NEW WAGE BILL

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PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, February 1) - A Fono concurrent resolution conveying the lawmakers' support of efforts by American Samoa Governor Togiola and Congressman Faleomavaega to exclude American Samoa from a U.S. minimum wage hike bill pending in Congress was transmitted to several members of Congress last Friday.

This followed the passage of the measure by both the local House and Senate late last week. An amendment was made that combined the two separate resolutions (each chamber had its own resolution) into one measure.

"We hope that the U.S. Congress will consider our united stand on this important issue," said Senate President Lolo M. Moliga. "Any drastic hike in our minimum wage will effect the local economy."

Today, the U.S. Senate will take up the measure which calls for increasing the federal minimum wage over the next two years from the current US$5.15 to US$7.25 per hour.

An amendment to include American Samoa in the wage bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday.

Local leaders believe the minimum wage structure we have right now - which is reviewed every two years by a special industry committee appointed by the Secretary of Labor in accordance with the federal Fair Labor Standards Act - should be left as is due to the territory's fragile economy that's dependent mainly on the two tuna canneries.

American Samoa's minimum wage ranges from US$2.68 to US$4.09, depending on the industry.

According to the resolution, "the immediate impact of increasing the U.S hourly minimum wage applicable to the States will devastate the local economy resulting in massive layoffs and insurmountable financial difficulties resulting in the need for massive input of federal grants or direct aid to American Samoa to avoid or prevent the exodus of large number of Samoans to other states of the United States which would create an unexpected burden on these states' social, educational, welfare and hospital facilities of those states that already have large Samoan community on the West Coast of the U.S. and Hawaii."

The resolution is signed by all members of the Fono.

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