Politician Tries To Block Minimum Wage Of Only $4.68 Per Hour In American Samoa
Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen, the U.S. Representative for American Samoa, introduced legislation yesterday to block a scheduled minimum wage increase for American Samoan workers of just fifty cents – and a companion bill to postpone the increase. The minimum wage increase would still leave workers in American Samoa with much lower pay than in the rest of the United States. Garment workers would receive only $4.68 per hour. Fish cannery workers would only receive $5.26 per hour.
Why would a politician representing American Samoa introduce a bill preventing people in American Samoa from receiving wage increases?
One possible reason is that Congresswoman Radewagen is representing business interests that control the Samoan economy, rather than the workers of American Samoa. Companies like Starkist and Tri Marine, which sell canned tuna, say that they can’t possibly afford to pay American Samoa workers fifty cents more per hour – by raising the price of a can of tuna by a penny or two.
Other corporations are pushing hard against the small wage increase as well. Among the companies that sells clothes manufactured in American Samoa is Target – the big box store with the red and white logo. Would you decide against buying a shirt or a pair of pants at Target just because it cost five or ten cents more?
Though the big companies that exploit American Samoa’s low wages don’t want to see any financial improvement for their workers, others are speaking out. Galea’i M. Tu’ufuli, a member of the American Samoan Senate, says that wants the minimum wage to be raised to $7.50, saying that, “by giving the people the buying power to buy what they want, it helps the economy too, because that money stays here.”
Here’s where things get complicated. Galea’i says that he has requested Congresswoman Radewagen to introduce legislation to block the federal minimum wage increase of 50 cents because he thinks that such an increase isn’t big enough
So, it’s possible that Radewagen’s bill is a maneuver to allow local politicians the space to institute a truly fair wage. On the other hand, it might simply be a delaying tactic, or a way to ensure that corporate influence over the territory prevents a minimum wage increase from ever taking place at all.
Back here in North America, the issue bears close attention – and skepticism, as citizens here should ask why American Samoa can’t benefit from the same wages as the rest of the United States.