Thursday, February 19, 2009

Why Did Eni Not Reveal Delay in GAO study?

Although they buried the fact deep in the story, let’s give credit to Samoa News, where Eni Faleomavaega’s sister-in-law works as an editor, for admitting in this morning’s edition that the Saipan Tribune was first to reveal that the GAO minimum wage study mandated for American Samoa and the Northern Marianas will be completed in 2010, not 2009 as proposed in the House bill. Samoa News was silent on the fact that Faleomavaega neglected to mention the change of timing in his February 13 letter to local leaders informing them what was in the federal stimulus bill for American Samoa.

This is a hugely important bit of information because it means a far greater likelihood that a third 50-cent wage hike will go into effect in May, with significant implications for the territory’s economy. The canneries already have made personnel cutbacks to accommodate earlier increases. It would seem to us that Samoa News owes its readers an explanation for this omission. Did Eni report the change in study completion date in his letter to the leaders? We have not seen the full text, so it is possible they missed reporting that part of Eni’s letter.

If Eni did not report the change to the leaders, was he trying to avoid the embarrassment of this important change having been made? Did the conference committee make the change made over his objections? Or was he embarrassed because he was not even consulted? Was his “friend, ally and mentor” Sen. Dan Inouye on the Conference Committee? If so, were he and his staff not keeping Eni and his staff informed of changes being made to this critical part of the bill? If not, why were they not keeping Eni informed? Perhaps Eni’s relationship with Inouye might not be as close as he leads voters to believe (and Samoa News happily reports) or maybe the whole issue is a matter of staff incompetence on Eni's part.

Or was Samoa News simply trying to sweep it all under the rug until its hand was forced by the Saipan Tribune revelation?

Any of these explanations are possible or maybe all of them. But we’ll never know because we are not holding our breath waiting for Samoa News to ask for an explanation from Eni or offer one of their own. And as we asked in a previous post, just exactly what is Eni’s position on minimum wage, anyway? From his January 28, 2009 letter to House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman George Miller (another “friend, ally and mentor”), he says (and we quote Eni’s actual, printed words):

"I am writing to request your assistance in ending minimum wage escalator clauses for American Samoa which were enacted in P.L. 110-28. . . . I believe it is necessary, given the global financial crisis we are now facing, for Congress to provide temporary relief for our local businesses operating in American Samoa which are unable to incur further increases in minimum wage at this time. . . . [T]he current state of the economy in the U.S. and its Territories requires me to request your direct intervention. Clearly, I support Congress directing the DOL to undertake a new and more thorough study that will be useful to the economies of American Samoa and CNMI in the future. In the interim, I am hopeful that you will support my request to end escalator clauses. . . . Since workers in American Samoa have finally received a long overdue increase of $1.00 per hour in minimum wage since enactment of P.L. 110-28, I am hopeful that you will be able to place a temporary hold on escalator clauses until such time as economic conditions warrant future increases."

That language sounds pretty clear to us: PLEASE STOP WAGE INCREASES NOW although it is leas clear if he wants them "to end" or be placed on "a temporary hold."

However, in his February 13 letter to local leaders after the passage of the stimulus bill, which was heavily quoted by Samoa News in its February 14 story that neglects to mention the delay in the GAO study, Eni says “On repeated occasions I have requested [wage impact] information from ASG and from our local Chamber of Commerce because, until we have compelling evidence to do so, Congress will not and should not roll back minimum wage. . . .Can we sustain a third increase? I do not know the answer to this question. This is why I have called for a serious study [emphasis added] of the problem because, like Mr. Robinson, I believe enough is enough.

Yes, but that study now will not be completed until 2010.

It seems to us that instead of proudly running photos of Eni shoring up his support amongst Samoan military voters stationed in Kuwait (instead of accompanying Hillary Clinton on her visit to Indonesia or being back home to personally explain the stimulus bill—like most other members of Congress are doing in their districts), Samoa News ought to be asking Eni to curtail all of his travel and redouble his efforts with Miller and whoever else is necessary in Washington to suspend the upcoming May wage increase he asked Miller to have ended or suspended in his January 28 letter. If it does go into effect, does that mean that, as he states in his February 13 letter, he also will not support a rollback, even if it forces massive layoffs?

Come on Eni. That’s only a dozen weeks from now. Surely you can sit still in Washington for that long. And surely Samoa News can for once in its existence under its current management take an editorial position involving Eni, his sister-in-law notwithstanding. Does Samoa News not see any community responsibility to be more on top of this story, more accurate, more complete and more unbiased than it has been so far?

If not Samoa News, who? No one can rely on the government-owned TV station, the woefully underfinanced Samoa Post or Monica Miller’s five-minute news updates.

1 comment:

busycorner said...

Gee, you're giving the Samoa News a lot more credit than they deserve.

Do you really think this is a giant conspiracy of disinformation?

I wish SN was that sophisticated.

And what's the big deal about the wage hike anyway. It seems to me that Mr. Robinson misrepresents the business community most likely to benefit from greater consumer buying power.

Eni may be fighting to save the profit line of Dongwon and Thai Union, as if they elected him to office, but both of those businesses will eat the wage hike and do what they always do.

I guess from where you write this rant you can't see what American Samoa sees - the size of a can of tuna was reduced from 6.5 ounces to 6 ounces since the wage increase was placed into effect.

That's how you make up for added costs, just reduce the size of the product and raise the retail price.

From Pago