|October 5, 2001
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
|WASHINGTON, D.C.—HEINZ – STAR KIST TUNA COMPANY WINS FIRST ROUND ON ANDEAN TREATY AGREEMENT BILL|
| Congressman Faleomavaega announced
today that StarKist and its parent company, H.J. Heinz, have aggressively
lobbied Congress to include canned tuna in the Andean Trade Agreement.
“On Wednesday night, a bill was introduced which, if passed, would allow Andean countries, including Ecuador, to export canned tuna, duty-free, to the U.S.,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “This bill was hastily prepared and introduced without hearings or public comment before the International Trade Subcommittee, chaired by Congressman Phil Crane from Illinois.”
“StarKist is the only U.S. tuna processor in support of this bill. StarKist is also the only U.S. tuna processor that lobbied for the introduction of this bill. What this means is that when it comes to canned tuna, StarKist wants Ecuador to have the same trade privileges as the U.S. Territory of American Samoa, except wages for fish cleaners in Ecuador are 69 cents per hour,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“This is simply unacceptable. We may not be a corporate giant, but for the past 40 years, we have played by the rules and done our best as a people and a Territory to help StarKist become the number one brand of tuna. And what do we get in return? StarKist wants to downsize in American Samoa because our minimum wage rate is $3.20 per hour for fish cleaners. For the life of me, I cannot understand how StarKist became the number one brand of tuna in the U.S. when it coins the very lifeblood of Samoan working men and women into dollars and cents,” the Congressman said.
“I think it is important for our people to know that this legislation holds serious implications for American Samoa. The President of Chicken of the Sea (Samoa-Packing) has noted that it will be forced to downsize its operations by 50% if this legislation passes Congress,” Faleomavaega added.
“StarKist insists that its operations in American Samoa will remain unaffected if this legislation passes, but I do not believe that this will be the case,” Faleomavaega said. “This is why I must say what I have said time and time again. The tuna industry will not be with us forever. Our local leaders must prepare for the day when the tuna industry leaves American Samoa, and I will not be surprised if Heinz Corporation and StarKist decide to move their $65 million plant to Ecuador because of the favorable treatment they will get from this legislation.”
“Put another way, American Samoa is up against the Heinz conglomerate giant, with corporate assets over $15 billion. We are fighting a 900-pound gorilla,” the Congressman said. “But I am hopeful that as this debate moves forward to the House floor, we will be able to gain more support. Round one may go to StarKist and Heinz Corporation, but I can assure our people, I am not giving up the fight.”
“What is sad here is that Heinz Corporation through its subsidiary StarKist, wants to force Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea (Samoa Packing) to close their canning operations in California, Puerto Rico and American Samoa, and then transfer their plants and operations to Ecuador and other Andean countries because fish cleaners there get paid only 69 cents per hour.” Faleomavaega added.
“Approximately 10,000 cannery workers in California, Puerto Rico and American Samoa are going to be without jobs if this bill passes, and I predict in the future, some 5,000 cannery workers in American Samoa are going to lose their jobs because of this initiative by Heinz – StarKist,” concluded Faleomavaega.
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