What is the deal with American Somoa?

OK, went home for lunch and on the way out the door back to work they were playing a clip on the news channel with a House member, during the vote on stem cell research, asking if an amendment could be attached that would exempt American Samoa, just like the minimum wage bill (his words.) The guy with the gavel got very pissed and cut him off, and the commentator said something about the minimum wage bill covered all America and all American territories, with the single exception of American Samoa. Which for some reason had a House member very pissed off.

I don’t know anything about American Samoa - does Hillary or Bush have house staff there or something? What was that exchange all about? (I didn’t think to hit the record button the Tivo.)

American Samoa gained a lot of taint from the scandals of Abramov and Tom Delay, whom it was revealed often took paid corporation vacations there and worked to shield Samoan factories from fair labor laws.

OK, did a quick google between meetings. Of all places, the Saipan Tribune had the best coverage (there was nothing in the news sites from ABC, CBS, MSNBC, CNN, didn’t check Fox.) Apparently America Samoa is where Starkist pays labor extremely low wages to pack their tuna. They have a couple of strong Democratic ties, Faleomavaega (who I don’t know) gets a ton of campaign money from the tuna industry and StarKist’ home office is in San Francisco.

What’s interesting is that they made a big deal about including ALL U.S. territories to include the garment shops in the Northern Marianas. But very specifically excluded American Samoa to give the tuna guys a break. Ugh. Sounds like business as usual.

Here Jeff. This is a winger talking point which is probably where you caught wind of it. There was a live chat with a Post reporter, who covered the story, where this came up and he responded to it.

Washington: Looks like Speaker Pelosi was bought off by a large corporation in her district, and what a surprise, no coverage in The Post? The minimum wage increase includes all of our territories, except American Samoa. One of the biggest opponents of the federal minimum wage in Samoa is StarKist Tuna, which owns one of the two packing plants that together employ more than 5,000 Samoans, or nearly 75 percent of the island’s work force.

StarKist’s parent company, Del Monte Corp., has headquarters in San Francisco. No coverage of the hypocrisy this morning in The Post, which just proves my point – biased anti-republican paper.

Jonathan Weisman: Dude, I was the first to write on this. See below (man, I enjoyed this question)

HEADLINE: Minimum-Wage Bill Stirs Controversy in Pacific Islands;

Democrats Aim Raise for Northern Marianas but Not Samoa

BYLINE: Jonathan Weisman, Washington Post Staff Writer


After years of protection from the likes of Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff, employers on the Northern Mariana Islands would finally have to pay workers the federal minimum wage under legislation before the House tomorrow.

Democrats have long tried to pull the Northern Marianas under the umbrella of U.S. labor laws, accusing the island government and its industry leaders of coddling sweatshops and turning a blind eye to forced abortions and indentured servitude. But Abramoff, the once-powerful Republican lobbyist now in federal prison, spent millions of dollars from the island and its business interests currying favor with Republicans, aligning support with conservative interest groups and thwarting every effort to intervene in the Northern Marianas’ economy.

But Republican leadership aides accused the Democrats of using a double standard by imposing the higher minimum wage on a government with a Republican representative to the United States while continuing to exempt a territory with a Democratic delegate. American Samoa and the tuna industry that dominates its economy would remain free to pay wages that are less than half the bill’s mandatory minimum.

Washington: I wrote the post of the Pelosi double standard. Your article is 80 percent about what Republicans did, and about 20 percent on what is happening now. You never once mention it is Pelosi’s home district, nor do you mention the company is based in San Fran. It is basically bashing Republicans, with one little side note at the bottom about the new bill.

Jonathan Weisman: I looked at Del Monte, which is San Francisco-based, but Del Monte executives have given to Republicans almost exclusively and have given nothing to Pelosi or the major Democratic committees. If they had, we would have printed it, but our standards are a little higher than the guilt-by-association standards of our competitor.


Brian, it probably is a GOP talking point, but the article I read was in the Saipan Tribune, which is pretty non Republican. ;) It mentions Pelosi’s home district, but it talks more about Faleomavaega having his campaigns funded in very large amounts by the tuna industry. And apparently the Democrats are the ones who included the exemption in the bill. So, for whatever reason, it was a Democrat pushed exemption. My guess it it has more to do with this Faleomavaega guy (who I guess I’ve never heard of) than Pelosi.

Our very own bipartisan slave zone. Ugh.

With a modicum of effort I discovered this: Faleomavaega’s biggest contributors, by an order of magnitude, are unions and unions are pro-minimum wage if I recall correctly.


However, I also found this aside on a, random, forum I know nothing about and I’m lacking in the time to follow it up with additional research to confirm or deny:

Faleomavaega’s a matai, BTW. And so were three of the last four governors. Faleomavaega just got re-elected for the, um, eighth time? He’s going to hold that office for just as long as he wants to. (Not that this is unique to American Samoa, of course.)

AS is also pretty spectacularly corrupt. An estimated $150 million of US aid has more or less disappeared there over the last 20 years or so, and the business sector elite overlaps with the political ruling caste: more matais.

Democratic compared to some of its neighbors, sure, but Minnesota it’s not.


However, that one guy isn’t Pelosi and the operation here is all about trying to smear Pelosi because StarKist’s parent corporation is in San Francisco.

Apparently Faleomaveaga is the US Representative from Samoa 8-|. That’s actually kind of pathetic, but I suppose you can say it’s the Samoans fault for electing him.

I didn’t even realize the Samoans had a congressman.

All I know is that I’m getting pretty horny with all this talk of taints and tuna packing. So, what’s this thread about?


Man, I can only imagine the seething hate you guys would be spewing if it was Republican SotH exempting a big business interest in his district.

IMAGINE – John Lennon.

Then why did he put that exclusion into the minimum wage bill? Apparently he was the person who inserted it.

What disappoints me - and yeah, maybe I got my hopes up in a naive fashion - is that the House went along with this exemption. I thought the new House was all about not letting crap like this happen.

This is definitely wrong and fucked up – no doubt about that – but it is funny how everyone assumed it was Pelosi behind this. That would’ve been my assumption, too, of course, but it looks like it’s just coincidence that Starkist is based in SF (note that if Starkist had given major $$$ to Pelosi, I’d be calling for her head).

It cracks me up that Republicans would stoop to using this as a talking point, but, hey, when you don’t have real arguments to make, make shit up. (And note that this is true of both parties, unfortunately – the port security debacle being an obvious example of it coming from the other side!)

Yeah, I did a seach on Google news to see what “American Samoa” and “Pelosi” turned up. It’s all winger so-called news outlets, except the U.S. News and World Report, and they’re are leaning on a Washington Times story. Which likely explains Wiesman’s crack about the lack of journalistic standards of The Post’s competition.

It’s not hard to see how the Byzantine Empire fell seeing as the Greeks, when they’re not arguing with literally every one of their neighbors, can’t help but decend into fratricidal arguments among themselves every chance they get. Literally the first thing the Greeks did after winning the Balkan war was set upon themselves.

Most Greek intelligencia are strongly socialist and anti-American in the Franz Fanon anti-colonialism sort of way.

The story isn’t Starkist and Pelosi.

The story is that the Samoan Democrat knows that his country is totally screwed if the minimum wage is hiked. It’s shocking to me that after the Democrats in the House downplayed adverse economic effects from the minimum wage that they would believe this guy’s claim about Samoa being totally hosed.

Meanwhile, what happens to the Marinas? Thank goodness that those people in the ‘sweat shops’ are going to be saved by having their wages doubled! What a windfall for them! I’m sure they’ll enjoy their new wages of $0 per hour. Somehow I don’t think that the innate economic advantages of the Marinas isles will offset higher labor prices.

Link me to “the story” wahoo or I could just take your word for it. What I’m talking about is story certain outlets (and I’d be willing to bet it was Fox that Jeff happened to have on when he saw this episode) are lying through their asses to push like crazy in order to discredit the Democratic House Speaker Pelosi.

The story I’m not seeing so much is the one that has anything to do with the Representative from Samoa or his reasoning aside from an unlinked reference to a report in something called the “Saipan Tribune.”

Although knee-jerk ideological responses, as always, are welcome here in P&R.

Pelosi was not the author of that bill, but it’s nice to see that you still don’t let the facts get in the way of a good rant.

rucker: Weisman nails the Dems hypocrisy here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/08/AR2007010801641.html

Money parapgraphs:

“But Samoa has escaped such notoriety, and its low-wage canneries have a protector of a different political stripe, Democratic delegate Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, whose campaign coffers have been well stocked by the tuna industry that virtually runs his island’s economy.
Faleomavaega has said he does not believe his island’s economy could handle the federal minimum wage, issuing statements of sympathy for a Samoan tuna industry competing with South American and Asian canneries paying workers as little as 66 cents an hour. The message got through to House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.), the sponsor of the minimum-wage bill that included the Marianas but not Samoa, according to committee aides. The aides said the Samoan economy does not have the diversity and vibrancy to handle the mainland’s minimum wage, nor does the island have anything like the labor rights abuses Miller found in the Marianas.”

American Samoa has had a smattering of its own negative publicity, and an Education and Labor Committee aide said yesterday that Miller probably will seek a review of the island’s labor relations. Just last month, the U.S. District Court in Hawaii upheld the conviction of a Korean sweatshop owner, who held 17 workers in involuntary servitude in American Samoa, imprisoning them in his garment factory compound.
But in American Samoa, it is the tuna industry that rules the roost. Canneries employ nearly 5,000 workers on the island, or 40 percent of the workforce, paying $3.60 an hour on average, compared with $7.99 an hour for Samoan government employees. Samoan minimum-wage rates are set by federal industry committees, which visit the island every two years.
Faleomavaega’s aides said yesterday that the delegate was in American Samoa for the opening session of the island’s government and would not comment. But he is no stranger to the minimum-wage issue. When StarKist lobbied in the past to prevent small minimum-wage hikes, Faleomavaega denounced the efforts.
“StarKist is a billion-dollar-a-year company,” he said after a 2003 meeting with executives from StarKist and parent company Del Monte Foods. “It is not fair to pay a corporate executive $65 million a year while a cannery worker only makes $3.60 per hour.”
But after the same meeting, Faleomavaega also said he understood that the Samoan canneries were facing severe wage competition from South American and Asian competitors. Democratic aides familiar with the issue said Faleomavaega is not about to allow the federal minimum wage to reach Samoa – and perhaps for good reason.

hrmph Sometimes I get so busy fighting, and working up a good indignant righteousness, I forget to read the very basic articles that start the whole thing. Stupid newbie mistake.

I’ll probably need to read some more about this but Faleomavaega sounds like a guy who’s really in a bad spot. He wants his people to get paid a fair wage, hell his biggest contributors are the unions after all, but given their outlaying status and local competition it might not work for their economy after all.

Anyhow, good call wahoo. Been testy ever since Bush’s little Iraq address and I should know better than to let it out without really getting my facts straight first.

OK, it was MSNBC - not quite Fox. ;)

Saipan Tribune and Washington Times were the two sites that I found first when reading what was going on. I wasn’t looking for some issue, I was just puzzled at what the heck a House member was talking about with a special exemption for AS. And perturbed when it seemed that a big corporation was apparently getting a little special lovin’ with this bill.

(btw, I started with the Saipan paper to get a non-US version: here’s a link to it - http://www.saipantribune.com/newsstory.aspx?cat=1&newsID=64701