Pinatang Park Meeting

August 3, 2008

Non-resident workers and their children from the Filipino and Bangladeshi communities came to Pinatang Park last evening to meet with me to ask questions, express concerns, and share information on labor and criminal cases. A few local residents came to lend support to the workers. Most of the workers have been in the CNMI for 10 years or longer. They have families and have established roots. Some are related to the Rotanese through marriage. Many say that their employers treat them like family or that they  feel valued and appreciated by their employers.  All expressed that Rota is their home. One man said that he would be willing to sacrifice his life to be a slave and work for low wages in order to remain on Rota until his US citizen children were grown.  He is hoping the federal government will grant green cards to the long term guest workers.   Rota is the only home their children have ever known. They are all concerned about returning to former homelands where most have no property, no prospects for employment, and no means to support their children.

I spoke to another resident who was granted CNMI permanent residency in the 1980's. He is concerned about his status and that of his Filipina wife. He also hopes that the CNMI permanent residents will be granted green cards.

Most of the problems that the guest workers presented to me are not with employers, but problems with the Rota Department of Labor.  Some workers detailed a variety of questionable actions.

The common problem among guest workers is that their employers tell them if they wish to be renewed they must pay for all the related fees and charges. Some also expressed that employers will not pay for medical expenses related to delivering a baby.

According to employees, the Rota Resort is working with the Rota Director of Labor to enforce the exit provision under PL 15-108. Workers are being scheduled for their return to their homelands. Questions by the workers have gone unanswered. This inhumane provision is inflicts hardship and financial expense on already poorly paid workers and their families. They will have to make arrangements for their US citizen children, try to find a place to stay in their homeland, and are especially worried about whether they will actually be allowed to return to the CNMI. 

Guest workers also had questions concerning the class action garment law suit and how the funds were distributed. Workers expressed that it appears much of the money has gone to attorneys, and not to the workers. They are requesting full disclosure on the distribution of funds. 

Many of the guest workers are still waiting for stimulus checks. All of them are suffering from the high prices of gasoline which is $5.70 a gallon and from the high prices of food and commodities. Eggs selling for $4.50 a dozen, rice for $39.95 a sack, and shampoo at $5.95 for a tiny bottle. One creative guest workers has turned off the air conditioning in his house and has screened in his carport to let the cool breezes in. That is where his family spends their time.

Here are some photos from the meeting: