Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Real Advocates of the Poor

Talifaitasi W. Satele

I could understand Common Cause’s position in support of the minimum wage law, if it were not causing jobs to disappear. Downsizing (in terms of personnel and benefits) actually started soon after the federal government forced this law upon us and well before the recession began to take its hold over the global economy. To say this law is not a significant reason for the COS’ departure is either dishonest and/or ignorant of everything that has been happening so far.

And clearly the canneries were the targets of the minimum wage law. But now with one to close in September and the other with one foot out the door, it would be those businesses still remaining that will have to comply with this law. And does anyone really expect these small businesses, these mom and pop stores, to pay the minimum wage, especially after the canneries’ departure?

Thousands of our low wage workers may be “aliens”, but you won’t know how good you had it until they’re gone. People complain about foreigners sucking up all of our precious limited resources, taking up all the jobs, owning all the businesses and crowding our schools and dysfunctional hospital, but wait until the streets are empty and life on Tutuila starts to look and feel like it is in Manu’a.

And while Tutuila starts to become an ever increasingly isolated island, watch the cost of living go up, not down. I have an uncle who travels to American Samoa every now and then, and he talks about the horrors of the rental rates for cars back home. Of course, it’s because he’s comparing them to rental rates here in Hawaii, and I have to remind him that car rental shops are dime a dozen over here.

If he thinks car rental rates back home are bad now, wait until after September.

It used to be that supporting the minimum wage law meant supporting the poor and the least fortunate amongst us. With the way things are going now, that is clearly no longer the case.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Slave Wages?

Talifaitasi W. Satele

To compare people who work at low wages to slaves does a great disservice to those who actually live or have lived in real slavery.

A real slave doesn’t get paid anything; he or she is forcibly taken against their own will, beaten and threaten with death if they don’t do as they’re told. Slavery is a real, sad and unfortunate crime committed against individuals to this very day, and no one should make a joke of the term by using it to describe what people working at the canneries are going through.

If anyone is close to being slaves around here, they are businesses. They are being forced to pay wages on a notion other than profit-maximization. That notion is simply the law. And in what ways are businesses compensated by the government for making these payments? None. Right now, businesses are paying for a government welfare program without even a word of thanks!

Slavery is a condition where one is subjected to another. Offering low wages to someone to perform a job doesn’t fall into that category. Wages, high or low, are offered to free men not slaves.