Unlike the Northern Mariana Islands, where minimum wage has been going up 50¢ every other year, American Samoa has not had an increase since 2009. This week, the Delegate from American Samoa, Aumua Amata Radewagen (R), had a bill on the House floor to delay the increase in her district for another year.
As a member of the Education and the Workforce Committee, I managed the bill, H.R. 2617, for the Democratic side.
I took the opportunity to review the minimum wage increases in the NMI and how they have impacted our economy. Our wage has almost doubled from $3.05/hr to $6.05/hr, since 2007. We had economic problems at the beginning of that time from the loss of the garment industry and a drop in tourism. More recently, though, even with wages rising, our economy began to grow.
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis attributed the economic growth in the Marianas to the pickup in tourism, but also to increased consumer spending, which is a result of rising wages.
H.R. 2617 passed the House on a voice vote, but was amended in the Senate to raise the minimum by 40¢ this week and then every third year until reaching the national minimum wage rate. The bill now goes to the President.