Minimum-Wage Hike May Reach to Samoa

Saturday, January 13, 2007

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), dogged by Republican charges of a double standard, said yesterday that American Samoa may join the Northern Mariana Islands as U.S. territories that would have to comply with a higher federal minimum wage.

Under the minimum-wage increase approved by the House this week, employers on the Northern Marianas would for the first time have to pay their workers the minimum wage, which would rise from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour. For years, Republicans -- with the help of convicted lobbyist Jack A. Abramoff -- have fended off efforts to bring the islands under federal labor laws.

The bill would leave American Samoa as the only territory not covered by the $7.25 rate, and because Samoa is represented by a Democrat, Del. Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, Republicans cried foul.

Faleomavaega's campaign coffers have been well stocked by the tuna industry that dominates his island economy, but Republicans picked up on another issue: StarKist owns one of the largest canneries on the island, and Del Monte Foods, StarKist's parent company, is based in San Francisco, which Pelosi represents.

"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," Pelosi announced yesterday.

Pelosi aides said the committee would be asked to work toward having all territories use the same wage standard.

-- Jonathan Weisman

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