Congressional Action Needed to Continue Wage Moratoriun


The US Department of Labor has informed Governor Lolo that it cannot meet his request to continue the moratorium on the 50 cent wage increase in the territory’s minimum wage.

The Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor, David Weil, was asked by the Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez to respond to the governor’s request to continue the moratorium .
Governor Lolo had also asked that Congress reinstate the special industry committees in order to determine an economically supported minimum wage for American Samoa.

Mr Weil informed the governor in a February 22 letter, that minimum wage rates in the territory are lower than in the continental United States and laid out the genesis of federal legislation that set the local wage.

In 2007, Congress passed the Fair Minimum Wage Act which repealed the section of the Fair Labor Standards Act which provided for special industry committees to review and recommend minimum wage increases for American Samoa.

This law also required annual increases of 50 cents an hour for each industry specific minimum wage rate in American Samoa.

However in 2010, Congress temporarily suspended the 50 cent escalator hikes.

Then in July 2012, Congress delayed the increases in the American Samoa minimum wage until 2015 and changed the updating interval from every year to every three years.

Last October, President Barack Obama signed HR 2617 which amended the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007 to reduce the amount of the scheduled increase in the minimum wage applicable to American Samoa.

Instead of a 50-cent increase, the hourly wage for the various industries was hiked to 40 cents, effective September 30, 2015,

Mr. Weil told Governor Lolo, absent congressional action, the Department of Labor does not have the authority to continue the moratorium and cannot establish the special industry committees.

He thanked the governor for raising his concerns and said that if he had additional questions, to contact Roberto Soberanis in the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs.

The letter from DOL came at the heels of the annual meeting of the Inter Agency Group on insular areas, which Governor Lolo attended with more than a dozen members of his cabinet and staff at the White House.

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