31 Jan 2007

Moves continue to add American Samoa's name to minimum wage bill

10:32 am on 31 January 2007

In the United States, a Republican Senator, Chuck Grassley, has filed two nearly identical amendments to the minimum-wage bill that the Senate is set to vote on today or tomorrow.

The measures would apply federal minimum-wage laws to all territories and would abolish a special committee in American Samoa that has helped keep wages there much lower than the federal minimum and replace it with a formula for regular wage increases.

The provision would also allow the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) to use the same formula as a way to implement federal minimum-wage laws.

House Republicans have spent the last three weeks accusing Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Education and Labor Chairman George Miller of using the minimum-wage bill to "exempt" American Samoa from an increase because Del Monte, which owns StarKist Tuna, is based in her district and owns one of two packing plants in American Samoa that employ a large portion of the islands' workers.

The bill doesn't mention American Samoa or the fact that the territory has had measures in place since 1956 that have kept its wages lower than the federal minimum.