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Friday, January 12, 2007

the unibrain at work: the tuna storm

One thing about GOP bloggers, "they get the memo."

You may have heard of the unibrow, these folks work as a unibrain.

This shitstorm-in-a-can over the minimum wage bill has been drummed up by the Washington Times. It's a non-story now playing nationwide on NPR courtesy of what I am guessing is another instance of Steve Inskeep's sense of "fair play." This attempt to create some drama out of a non-existent Pelosi / Tuna industry connection is just the latest example of coordinated and distorted GOP attacks that weasel their way into the mainstream media.

Democrat George Miller, Chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, crafted left one exemption in the recently passed minimum wage bill that exempts American Samoa. This is the same exemption that was in the 1999 version of this bill. You may agree or disagree with the provision, intending to help Samoan factories compete in their region, but the GOP is claiming this is due to a connection between Pelosi and SF Bay Area-based Tuna giant Del Monte. (DelMonte operates tuna factories in Samoa under their Starkist label.) The entire premise of a DelMonte/Pelosi connection behind the Samoan exemption, however, is spun out of nothing: DelMonte did not buy a facility on Samoa until 2002, well after the 1999 exemption had been written. Further, unlike the GOP and Jack Abramoff-favored Marianas Islands, American Samoa is covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act. There is no comparison or equivalency.

Now, this bill will raise the minimum wage for tens of millions of Americans in all 50 States. Yet the GOP blog wing is suddently rising to the defense of tuna factory workers in American Samoa? Can you smell the hypocrisy here? To hear the GOP defend worker's rights and the minimum wage should set off alarm bells for anyone who understands GOP rhetoric. The shark is wearing fish fins here.

So, yeah, the GOP has their facts wrong and their real views hidden. What else is new? The GOP hot air machine, having failed in its attempt to prop up regulation-gutting, corrupt politicians like Richard Pombo, is now reverting back to form: distorting their real views and attacking Democrats with a cynical logic that seems to defend workers that they could care less about. (Witness the GOP coddling of Jack Abramoff.)

One thing none of those blog posts attacking Speaker Pelosi mention is that the Republican Party in their six years in total control of our government didn't raise the minimum wage for anyone, anywhere.

Well, that's not true. The GOP Congress gave themselves a pay raise...and it worked...until the voters gave them the ultimate pay cut...the loss of their majority.

: Anyone who wants to read about how minimum wage provisions impact everyday people's lives and are, more and more, supported by the small business community should read this fascinating comparative story from the New York Times.

Update 2: Blogger D-Day has an excellent breakdown of the "total picture" on this story on his blog. I agree with him, read it here.

Update 3
: The vote in favor of raising the minimum wage was 315-116, with 82 Republicans joining all 233 Democrats voting for the provision. No wonder the "unibrain" is working overtime to distract folks from the real story here!


  • I posted a full examination of this subject here:


    Ultimately, I think you're right on very many points, but that does not excuse the perpetuation of unfair labor practices in American Samoa.

    By Blogger dday, at 5:03 PM  

  • So, why doesn't it offend your sense of equality that people in the tuna factories in American Samoa earn just north of $3/hour? Furthermore, there have been scads of allegations of unsafe working conditions and unfair labor practices in these same factories, so your swipe at the "sweatshops" in the Northern Marianas Island rings false.

    The real point here is that forcing the tuna factories in American Samoa to pay $7.15/hour will drive the tuna business away and force a large portion of the island's population onto the unemployment roles. The situation will repeat itself in the Northern Marianas Islands if the garment industry is driven away.

    The territories (and US states for that matter) should be left alone to decide what type of minimum wages the market can handle. In allowing an exemption for American Samoa (regardless of when the exemption started) the Democrats are acknowledging that there should be limits to federal meddling in local economies. Too bad the rest of the businesses that will tank as a result of this showpiece legislation won't benefit from the same restraint.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:19 PM  

  • Re: Anonymous

    The point here is not what does or does not offend my sense of equality.

    Bills raising the federal minimum wage, a position with wide popular support and real impact for low income Americans, had been BLOCKED by the GOP for years now. The new Democratic majority in Congress, joined by any number of GOP lawmakers, has saw fit to change that. That's the real story here, and it will affect millions of low-income Americans pocket books directly.

    Yes, we can and should debate how to set labor policy and wage provisions in U.S. territories, but pretending that that debate is anything other than a narrow side issue is disingenuous in the extreme. American Samoa and the Marianas Islands are decidedly NOT Washington State or Idaho or Rhode Island. (Did you read the NYT article?) Pretending otherwise is foolish.

    The GOP failed to raise the federal minimum wage because, as a party, the GOP does not believe in it. Rather than be honest about that, or the subtleties of an exemption for American Samoa, right-wing bloggers and Congressman went into high dudgeon about supposed Democratic hypocrisy and lack of equality.

    Of course, a Democratic Congress is well-posisitioned to craft a forward-looking proposal on labor practices and wages in American territories. We can expect that they will do so. The 100 hours are just the beginning.

    The 110th Congress, as much as the GOP may not like it, was elected to serve the American people with a Democratic Majority for the next two years.

    Will the GOP play this game of attack quibbles or join the Democrats in crafting broadly impactful legislation that has wide popular support? That's something that DIDN'T happen under Tom DeLay and Bill Frist. You will see a great number of Republicans voting for these "Democratic" bills. There's a reason for that.

    Pelosi and Reid are playing for keeps. They know what raising the federal minimum wage means to so many Americans. They know the provision has broad popular support and has yet to tank the economies of such successful states as California, New York and Minnesota.

    If, however, you think you can convince a majority of Americans of your anti-federal minimum wage views, you should do just that.

    It's called Democracy...and it's one of the reasons the GOP is out of power in Congress right now.

    Samoa is a side issue. In extremis.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 1:41 PM  

  • So you defend Nancy by saying that evil Jack Abramoff favored the Marianas Islands in a similar manner? Truth is, Nancy is Jack in drag! But you want it both ways? Nancy is Ok, but Jack is bad? Either both are wrong or both are right, now which is it? But you continue to want it both ways. Sometimes raising the minimum wage is wrong (to businesses based in San Francisco) and sometimes it is Ok (for businesses located outside of San Francisco). Ho ho, this is the two-faced problem Democrats always generate and you try to act like nobody will see it as long as the the New York Times does not cover it... and, of course, they won't. Ah but things are different from the last time the Democrats were in power. The Internet was young and the New York Times was powerful. Today, the Internet world is overwhelming the old media and the New York Times is losing its power. The Democrats can't hide behind the lack of reporting of the old liberal papers anymore! Ta Dah... bet Nancy gives in and rewrites the law! (So much for the New York Times!)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:02 AM  

  • The House voted 315 to 116 to raise the Federal minimum wage.

    82 Republicans joined all 233 Democrats to pass a bill which raises the minimum wage for the first time since 1997.

    This is why the American voters elected a Democratic majority to Congress. To get things done. To pass legislation that has broad popular support.

    That's the real story here. Full-time workers currently making the minimum wage will, when this bill takes full effect, make an extra $4000 a year. That will impact so many American families lives.

    Congress is working for the American people again, and with broad bi-partisan support.

    Anonymous, it sounds like you side with the 116 Republicans who opposed the minimum wage bill.

    That's your right, of course.

    But, let's face it, trying to distract from the real issues doesn't work so well when your political party is divided and in the minority.

    116 votes sounds about right to me as a gauge of "conservative GOP" strength right now.

    I'm sorry that you're all sentimental for the Tom DeLay/Dennis Hastert era...most of the rest of us, including a goodly number of Republicans, are happy to wish it good riddance.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 7:22 AM  

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