Tunagate: Today's Catch
After passing their minimum wage legislation earlier this week the Washington Times noted that that Speaker Pelosi exempted hometown companies from minimum wage increases by passing legislation that excluded American Samoa. Her husband is reported to be a major stockholder in Del Monte, one of the hometown companies in question.
Because this scandalous news surfaced, Speaker Pelosi announced that democrats would revisit this minimum wage legislation.
Again the Washington Times reported:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi yesterday said Democrats will close a loophole in the House-passed minimum wage increase that exempts American Samoa — an action taken after it was revealed that one of the U.S. territory’s main employers is based in her congressional district.
“I have asked the Education and Labor Committee as they go forward with the legislation to make sure that all of the territories have to comply with U.S. law on the minimum wage,” Mrs. Pelosi said.
The decision follows criticism over the exemption, reported earlier this week by The Washington Times, to allow tuna canneries in American Samoa to continue paying $3.26 an hour — nearly $4 less than the $7.25 minimum wage passed by the House Wednesday.
Of course, there was never another vote on this conflict of interest since Wednesday and it could be months before action is taken.
It should be noted also that this law could cripple the businesses of these territories included in the legislation.
Democrats tried their best to come to Speaker Pelosi’s defense.
Again, from the Washington Times:
The bill, which raises the federal minimum wage $2.10 from $5.15, pointedly extends for the first time the federal minimum wage to the Northern Marianas Islands, another U.S. territory in the Pacific with similarly low wages.
Democrats defended the exemption earlier in the week, saying that the Northern Marianas territory has a long history of work-force abuses that require immediate action. But they also acknowledged that the wages in both places are essentially the same and, they said, need to be raised.
So, it’s all about those work-force abuses, right?
However, the Anchorage Daily News has the complete scoop:
As The Washington Post pointed out, the minimum-wage boost won’t apply everywhere on U.S. soil. Two U.S. enclaves in the Pacific Ocean, the Northern Marianas and Samoa, have long been exempt from the $5.15 federal minimum. The Democrats’ measure ends the exemption for the Northern Marianas but keeps it for Samoa.
Ending the Northern Marianas exemption was an easy call for the Democrats. A booming garment industry there has taken full advantage of the cut-rate wage law, setting up sweatshops that exploited imported foreign workers while still putting the coveted “Made in the U.S.A.” label on their products.
Congress took note of the abuses long ago — including efforts by Alaska’s then-Sen. Frank Murkowski to close the loophole — so the industry hired disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. He worked with his congressional patron, Texas Republican Rep. Tom DeLay, to thwart any improvement in wages and working conditions in the Marianas. Their accomplices included Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young.
But in failing to give Samoan workers the same minimum-wage protection, Democrats look like they are playing a similar game of political protectionism. Samoa is represented by a Democratic non-voting delegate in the House; the Marianas send an elected “resident representative” who is a Republican.
The complaint offered by Samoa’s huge tuna canning industry — it can’t afford higher wages because of cheap foreign competition — is no different from the griping of the Marianas’ garment industry, which the Democrats correctly dismissed.
Got that?… There is no difference – same cheap labor – except that one has a Republican Rep. and one is represented by a democrat.
And, guess who is stocking this democrat’s pockets:
Democratic delegate Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, whose campaign coffers have been well stocked by the tuna industry that virtually runs his island’s economy.
Or, maybe it’s just the San Fransisco stockholders as originally reported?