Amata asks DOJ to consider using Starkist Agreement Funds for affected cannery workers

Source: Media release, office of Congresswoman Aumua Amata

Washington, D.C. — Congresswoman Aumua Amata released a Public Comment letter to the U.S. Department of Justice and the overseeing judge, to urge them to strongly consider legal precedents potentially allowing parties to the DOJ-Starkist Consent Decree to agree to set aside funds to the benefit of the affected workers.

“I am urging the agencies involved, under the supervision of the judge, to strongly consider all possibilities for allocating money to benefit the workers who are losing paychecks,” Amata said. “This is an agreement, so there’s nothing preventing these agencies from also agreeing to apportion funds to help the workers who are hurt the most by this process.

“Also, my letter highlights the special legal circumstances of American Samoa based upon the Deeds of Cession and respect for ‘Fa’a Samoa.’ Although I do not have legal standing to go beyond a Public Comment in court, I believe there is adequate legal precedent to consider, and brought these facts in detail to the attention of the Judge and the Department of Justice.”

The Congresswoman’s letter is addressed to the presiding Judge in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Federal Court, where Starkist is based, and to the U.S. Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice. The Public Comment period closes October 18, but anyone can also still comment until then at pubcomment-ees-enrd@usdoj.gov.

The Congresswoman’s complete letter is four pages in length, but a few key excerpts are below:

As you can see, this is not a normal case with normal side effects — it is an extraordinary case with extraordinary negative effects to an entire community largely dependent upon a sole core business which the local economy thoroughly revolves…

The Consent Decree calls for the collection of $6.3 million in penalties to go to Washington bureaucrats and not to the cannery workers, some of whom are Veterans; as well as those integral vendors in the supply chain effected such as the fishermen, suppliers and support service providers to the tuna industry; and to the essential government services, like the maintenance-starved Veterans clinic and LBJ Hospital, all of which will suffer direct harm. But none of that $6.3 million appears to be directed to any of them… Otherwise the only penalty being imposed is on the people of American Samoa.

It is clear that the Deed of Cession contemplated such economic disruptions in 1900 and the Congress some 29 years in 48 U.S.C. Section 1661 Statute, not only contemplated but codified that realization of the inevitable growing pains from the integration of such a small fragile economy into the larger fabric of the existing United States and intended to compensate the “islands of eastern Samoa” [American Samoa] for such disruptions…

The people of American Samoa have always shown supreme concern for the preservation of “Fa’a Samoa,” the Samoan way of life, which the District Court of Hawaii recognized and we ask the Department of Justice and Court to do so here.

Click on attachment to download pdf of Amata's public comment

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