Sunday, March 18, 2007


To: Mr. Glen Doutrich
I am sorry that you are unhappy with my most recent position regarding the issue of minimum wage for the CNMI with respect to implementation pursuant to U.S. Public Law 110-28. I am very much aware of your support of the job I am doing here in our nation's capital as the CNMI Resident Representative, and believe me I do appreciate and value your support.
With regards to the minimum wage debate, I am not under any illusion that whatever position I take will satisfy all of our people as the issue is complex because of so many competing interests and diverse views on it. I have tried to provide a balance to my position, even under tremendous adversity generated by elected officials like our governor whose passion is to ignore reality and fairness, and the governor and delegate of American Samoa who have powerful members of Congress supporting their position for a permanent recindment of the U.S. minimum wage for their territory.
By the way, our own governor favors their position as well. Never mind the subjective study of DOL that was inconclusive, which they tried to use as their basis for a permanent exclusion from the federal law, and never mind the fact that people are suffering under a repressive wage system. American Samoa's economic situation is unlike the CNMI's, so a common policy is not realistic. You probably have not read the complete text of my written testimony which I submitted to the Committee, so I am providing you a copy for you to objectively judge whether in fact I have "flip-flop" on my position on the issue.
Yes, I have been reading your blog regularly too, and I noted in many of your quotes of various interesting issues that you quote a lot from our local newspapers, and I am assuming that for your blog you relied on the Variety's Friday's Feb. 29 edition in which the article entitled "Tenorio asks feds to cap NMI wage rate at $4.05 for 2 years," written by Gemma Q. Casas appeared. In that one line statement on paragraph #9, I was quoted without quotation marks, unlike other comments in the article which were enclosed in quotation marks, to have said, "but he said the CNMI still has time to prevent the third and succeeding rate increases." I never said this in my oral testimony, nor is it in my written statement, nor was it my position. But maybe Variety was making the inference that because I recommended a two year period of no wage increase, they interpret my recommendation to mean that I am in favor of a wage freeze for two years.
A wage freeze will only happen if Congress agrees with the CNMI and American Samoan governments' positions, and then enacts legislation amending U.S. Public Law 110-28, on or before May 24, this year. Should a wage delay be enacted, my position is to include a language that will retain the May scheduled increase under the law. My proposal, if accepted will at least provide a safety net for an additional 50 cents, not much, but better than nothing at all. The two years for a comprehensive study was recommended by DOL as a representative period upon which a meaningful economic impact study could be developed which could then be used as a basis for an increase or a delay in the minimum wage implementation.
I am purposely being repetitious here, but I believe that if Congress agrees with our governor and the AmSamoan officials for a freeze in the wage increase in May, that there will be a mandate for DOL to do a complete study that will last at least two years. Again, in my statement written or oral, I did not support the delay for the May increase, in fact I support the increase but to cap it at $4.05 per hour and to await the finalization of the longer-term DOL study. Our governor and American Samoa(see their testimonies) said everything they could say about the damage and destruction of their respective territorial economies and the business sector, as valid reasons for a delay and eventually a permanent freeze. In a hearing room full of proponents for a freeze of the automatic increase, it is tough to differ, even professionally, when you are all alone, but that environment did not deter nor intimidate me to challenge their position. Its the best that I can do at this hearing, but will continue to seek meaningful and beneficial solutions to this very divisive issue confronting our Commonwealth.
Thank you for your insightful comments on issues confronting our people. You are making many people worry about their obligations as elected officials, but at the same time, you are definitely putting them in line to be more diligent, responsive and compassionate with the serious issues that require our objective and total engagement in order to find answers.
Pete A. Tenorio

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