Two Odd Views - CNMI Labor Issues

June 19, 2008

Kaipat: CNMI Labor System Better than Federal System

The Deputy Secretary of the CNMI Department of Labor, Cinta Kaipat declared that non-resident workers find a "supportive and fair employment system under the Commonwealth Employment Act of 2007 compared to the federal system." What is she talking about? The federal system that will be applied to the CNMI has not even been formulated yet.

Here is what she said:

The federal system does not hold employers accountable for current employment of every worker under contract, and it doesn’t provide mandatory mediation of employment dispute,

The CNMI, in contrast, provides accountability and mediation assistance, Labor said...

...“We have a good guest workers program that the feds don’t have,” she said.
That statement is not true. The CNMI DOL does NOT provide accountability. If it did there would not be over $6.1 million in unpaid wages. Under the CNMI system of labor thousands of workers have been cheated and have suffered. They have been cheated of wages or illegal deductions and the DOL has done nothing to enforce its own administrative orders. Hundreds of workers have been victims of illegal recruitment schemes. Others have suffered from false imprisonment, human trafficking, discrimination, and a litany of other abuses. Most of the workers who have been victims of labor abuses in the CNMI, have never been made whole. The CNMI system of labor is not a good system at all.

TTT President Against HB 16-86

The Marinas Variety reports that Taotao Tano president, Greg Cruz called HB 16-86 "a waste of taxpayers' time and money." The bill that was introduced by Representatives Tina Sablan, Victor Hocog, Heinz Hofschneider, and Edward Salas would allow long-time foreign workers to stay and work in the Commonwealth for five-year periods.

Cruz made these outrageous remarks as quoted in a Marianas Variety article:
Cruz said Sablan should “guarantee” that foreign workers who will be granted a five-year permit “can be trusted to spend more of their earnings in the CNMI rather than sending money to their homeland.”

He said the huge number of foreign nationals in the CNMI is a result of “pure self-interest,” adding that these workers are “seeking to prolong their stay in our homeland.”

According to Cruz, “Statistics will prove that the majority of labor abuses were based on exaggerated claims, and that foreigners were responsible for the abuses, human exploitation and human smuggling in our homeland and not our local people.”

He said Sablan “doesn’t know the history of her homeland.
"Workers should spend more of their earnings in the CNMI rather than sending money to their homeland.” Who is Mr. Cruz to tell anyone where to spend his or her earnings? Like all workers everywhere in the world the CNMI non-resident workers are working to support families and pay debts. Naturally, money would go to their homelands. Mr. Cruz failed to note that the taxpayer money he claims is being wasted is in large part from the taxes that the non-resident workers put into the CNMI coffers. It would be interesting to know what portion of the CNMI tax money is from the earnings of the nonresident workers.

"Pure self-interest." The guest workers did not just show up one day in the CNMI to work on US soil. They were invited and recruited to work there. Many have gone to the CNMI at great sacrifice to themselves and their families, having paid high recruitment fees. Some report that they sold their family land or went into debt for the chance to live the "American Dream." Self-interest suggests greed. There is no greed involved in what the guest workers have done. The word self-sacrificing would be better suited when speaking of the non-resident workers who have contributed much to the advancement of the CNMI.

"Workers are seeking to prolong their stay in our homeland.” Many of the workers are staying in the CNMI to collect the wages that unscrupulous employers withheld from their paychecks. Some of the workers are owed large sums of money, and do not want to leave the CNMI knowing that if they do they will never have a chance to recover their money. I saw one administrative order with an unpaid judgment for $26,000! Who can afford to walk away from that? The US government has the responsibility of making these workers whole since the CNMI neglected to do so.

“Statistics will prove that the majority of labor abuses were based on exaggerated claims, and that foreigners were responsible for the abuses, human exploitation and human smuggling in our homeland and not our local people.” This line didn't work in the 1980s when it was pushed; it didn't work in the 1990s when it was argued; and doesn't work today. Why? Because it's not true. The labor abuses in the CNMI are extensively documented and cannot be denied. It was the CNMI government and broken CNMI labor system that has perpetuated the abuses and suffering.

The story also stated:
Cruz also accused Sablan, attorney Stephen Woodfruff, human rights advocate Wendy Doromal, Federal Labor Ombudsman Jim Benedetto and former Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary David Cohen of giving the CNMI a “damaging the reputation” and of making “false and exaggerated accusations of human labor abuses and atrocities.”
The people who abused the workers are the ones who damaged the reputation of the CNMI. The people he mentioned are the ones who work or worked to stop abuses and institute positive reform. That line has also been used unsuccessfully for decades.

While Cruz opposes the bill, the Saipan Tribune noted that Jim Benedetto supported the legislation:
Federal Labor Ombudsman James Benedetto has spoken generally in favor of the bill. He said the bill would be good for the workers, as their status would no longer be tied to their employers. It would also be good for the employers, who would no longer have to pay annual permitting fees of $275 for each foreign worker. Further, it would be beneficial to the Department of Labor, since it will be relieved of the burden of processing thousands of permit and transfer applications.


Anonymous said...

hey greg! u dont have the right to tell us (contract workers) what to do with our money. we sweat for our salary!!! we worked for our money and we can do where ever we want to use our money. you better shut off your mouth and stop talking nonsense.