Bill aims to save American Samoa tuna jobs
U.S. Rep Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa) on Wednesday introduced a bill that would provide subsidies to companies that deliver seafood to American Samoa to be processed.
The American Samoa Protection of Industry, Resources and Employment Act is intended to protect American Samoa seafood-processing jobs. The Pacific territory’s private-sector economy is more than 80 percent dependent, either directly or indirectly, on the U.S. tuna-processing and -fishing industry, said Faleomavaega.
This month, Chicken of the Sea is closing its American Samoa tuna cannery and laying off more than 2,000 workers (40 percent of the territory’s private-sector employees, according to Faleomavaega), due to 2007 legislation that gradually increased the territory’s minimum wage until it reached USD 7.25 an hour in July, compared to less than USD 4 in 2007. The San Diego company is opening a new facility in Lyons, Ga.
Last year, StarKist announced it will cut production and more than 1,000 jobs at its American Samoa tuna cannery to cope with the minimum wage hike.
“The urgent issue facing American Samoa is the pending collapse of the tuna-processing and -fishing industry that provides the very economic foundation for nearly all other employment in the territory,” said Faleomavaega in a 16 September letter to American Samoa Gov. Togiola Tulafono.
“If we lose the canneries and the boats that deliver their fish, all other employers and jobs are put at immediate peril,” added Faleomavaega. “This is why I view an economic package aimed at the fishing industry that delivers fish directly to American Samoa processors as a territory-wide economic development package.”
The bill was referred to the House Natural Resources and Ways and Means committees.