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Lolo establishes ASG minimum wage task force — calls current wage law ‘reckless’ and ‘unreasonable’

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — US Government Accountability Office officials are scheduled to be on island Oct. 17- 24 to assess the impact of the federally mandated wage on the “economic health” of American Samoa, according to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga.

To assist the GAO team, the governor has established a 7-member ASG Minimum Wage Task Force “to develop our strategy to support our position that the current federal minimum wage law is reckless and unreasonable relative to its devastating financial impact on the economic health of American Samoa,” according to Lolo’s Oct. 2nd memo to cabinet members.

The task force is co-chaired by Commerce director, Keniseli Lafaele and the governor’s executive assistant Iulogologo Joseph Periera. Other members are Port Administration director Taimalelagi Dr. Claire Poumele; treasurer Ueligitone Tonumaipe’a; ASG Budget Office director Catherine Saelua; Human Resources director Eseneiaso J. Liu; and Public Works director Faleosina Voigt.

Lolo said he will be extending an invitation to members of the private sector to serve on the panel: Solip Hong; Taotasi Archie Soliai, Leilua Stevenson; and Chamber of Commerce chairperson Ella Gurr.

“Since the inception of our Administration, we have been vociferous in our objection against the automatic application of a federal minimum wage increase without predicating said increase to the carrying capacity of our territory,” the governor pointed out.

He said he has “vigorously pursued our request to resurrect” the previous Wage Industry Committee model to determine applicable wage for American Samoa “based on the ability of its economy to absorb any increase” in local minimum wage.

“Given the direct adverse financial impact of a federal minimum wage on our efforts to grow our economy let alone sustaining it, it is imperative that we invest in developing our strategy to support our prevailing position of changing the current legal format to determine the appropriate minimum wage rate for our territory,” he continued.

According to the governor, the Commerce Department will staff the task force, given the narrow window within which the work of the task force is to be completed. He called for the meetings of the task force to commence promptly, and for all ASG entities for their support when “petitioned for assistance relating to data and information.

As previously reported by Samoa News, American Samoa has 17 different minimum wage levels depending on the industry. The last minimum wage hike was Sept. 30, 2018 putting the cannery’s minimum wage at $5.56 per hour while the government’s minimum wage now stands at $5.21 per hour.

The cannery is the largest private employer in the territory.