by John Hawkins | January 15, 2007 1:27 pm
For years, conservatives have been pointing out that artificially increasing the costs of labor via the minimum wage costs people jobs while liberals denied it. Then, along come the Democrats who increase the minimum wage and what do we hear from them? We can’t raise the minimum wage in American Samoa because it’ll cost people jobs!
“Under a Democrat-backed legislation that is now before the House of Representatives, employers on the Northern Mariana Islands would have to pay workers the federal minimum wage. American Samoa and the tuna industry that dominates its economy would, on the other hand, remain free to pay wages less than half the bill’s new mandatory minimum.
Democrats have long tried to pull the Northern Marianas under the umbrella of U.S. labor law, accusing the island’s government and its industry leaders of coddling sweatshops and turning a blind eye to forced abortions and indentured servitude.
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 long made it clear he did 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 about 67 cents an hour.
…The wage bill coming to a vote this Wednesday (Thursday on Saipan) would raise the federal minimum from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 over two years, the first such increase since 1997. The 10-year stretch between wage increases is the longest since the mandatory minimum was created, and passage is expected to be overwhelming.
…But in American Samoa the tuna industry rules the roost. Canneries employ nearly 5,000 workers on the island, or 40 percent of the work force, paying on average $3.60 an hour, compared to $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.
…But after the same meeting, Faleomavaega said he understood that the Samoan canneries were facing severe wage competition from South American and Asian competitors.
Department of Interior testimony last year before the Senate noted that canneries in Thailand and the Philippines were paying their workers about 67 cents an hour. If the canneries left American Samoa en masse, the impact would be devastating, leaving Samoans wards of the federal welfare state, warned David Cohen, deputy assistant secretary of the interior for insular affairs.”
Of course, the 17 million dollar investment that Nancy Pelosi’s husband has in Del Monte Foods and the location of said company in her home state probably had more to do with the exemption than any concern for the workers there, but in either case, after Republican complaints, American Samoa is now going to be covered by the minimum wage.
However, that brings up an interesting question. These people in American Samoa are voluntarily choosing to work for $3.60 an hour. If the tuna companies do pack up and head elsewhere, will the people out of a job be better off? No. Moreover, what about all the other people across the country who are going to lose their jobs because the companies where they’re working won’t be able to pay them a higher wage than they deserve? Are they going to be better off? No, they’re not.
And that’s something that these advocates of a minimum wage never consider. They like to pat themselves on the back because they think they’re caring and sensitive because they support the minimum wage, but, do these same people ever say, “Gee, this policy that I support will cause enormous suffering in many people’s lives by regulating them out of a job?” No, because this legislation is really about making the people who advocate policies like the minimum wage feel good, not about the actual results.
If 40% of the work force in American Samoa does actually end up losing their jobs because of a minimum wage, that will be a terrible thing, but it will also be a concrete example of the sort of damage that liberal economy policies cause in people’s lives.
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