1,000 strong — StarKist entertains at Flag Day
StarKist Samoa cannery workers prefer that the minimum wage in American Samoa be reviewed by a special committee and urged rejecting any move to continue wages hikes - with the next one set for Sept. 30, 2015.
This was the public message shared by the close to 1,000 cannery workers, during their traditional song, or pese, at their performance for the 2014 Flag Day celebration at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Tafuna marking the 114 years since the territory became part of the U.S. family.
After 50-years of being part of the American Samoa family, StarKist Samoa says 2014 is the first time that the largest private employer in the territory has been invited to participate in the siva and pese. (StarKist has however participated in the past through the parade.)
The workers thanked the Lolo Administration for giving them this chance to showcase their talents and perform this year, as the government pays tribute to the business community under the theme “Government and Businesses in Partnership.”
To the Lolo Administration, through Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga, the cannery singers urged the government to “push, push for wages” in American Samoa to be considered by a special committee.
They thanked Congressman Faleomavaega Eni for his efforts in postponing the past wage increases and urged to continue to do the same, so that StarKist can remain in American Samoa.
The workers also say that there are a lot of job openings and opportunities at StarKist but it’s not a place for people to find spouses - which prompted laughter from the crowd. (It has long being rumored that men take up jobs at the canneries, where the large majority of workers are women, to get a wife)
They were also thankful to the government for consideration on releasing refunds early for cannery workers, who are the first to file for their refunds, adding that in past years, while it’s they that file early, they are the last to get their refunds.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office impact report on minimum wage hikes on American Samoa says that StarKist cannery workers who participated in a discussion group last year shared their opposition to further minimum wage increases rather than support for future increases.
The GAO report says workers expressed concerns that any increase would result in lost jobs or a complete closure of StarKist Samoa.
ASPA AND WATER BILL
The workers shared their thoughts about the American Samoa Power Authority also. First they thanked Utu Abe Malae for returning home and taking over the leadership post at ASPA. However, they claim that the problem faced is the low water pressure despite the fact that the cannery pays on time their $10,000 a month water bill.
ASPA was also thanked for allowing the cannery to use land in Satala to build its cold storage facility.
To end its thanks and message to ASPA, the group sang a Samoan rap song, which brought applause from the crowd.