Deanne Siemer is Untruthful, again

October 20, 2009

I would like to respond to Deanne Siemer’s letter to the editor concerning my view of umbrella permits to clarify some important points. By purposely leaving out and distorting the facts, Ms. Siemer was not truthful.

I did not change my position on umbrella permits. I said that I would not recommend signing the permits until major questions were answered including the main question of whether or not they conflict with CNMI or federal laws.

I would not recommend that guest workers sign the permits as long as the guest workers must agree to cover the costs of their repatriation and health care. These benefits were promised to the workers when they left their homelands. These provisions are a vital part of a legal contractual agreement that was approved by DOL. If employers and bonding companies fail, if the 96 days set by the court opinion expires, then it should be the responsibility of the CNMI government to cover these costs, rather than the impoverished foreign contract workers.

Guest workers have reported that there are no jobs available. Will umbrella permits magically make jobs appear? What will happen if DOL decides there will be no more extensions and those without jobs must be repatriated, yet the guest have no money to cover the costs? How can a person who has been unemployed for months suddenly come up with airfare or medical costs? It will be especially difficult, if not impossible, for those who are staying to collect the unpaid wages that they are owed. Isn't it an additional slap in the face for guest workers whose employers cheated them to have to sign a paper letting those very same employers off the hook for these contractual obligations too?

It appears that the attorneys who penned this permit assume that the responsibility for covering these expenses will shift from the employers, to the bonding companies, to the poor employees and ultimately to the U.S. government and U.S. taxpayers. It is interesting that the CNMI government was left out of this equation.

Ms. Siemer says, “Wendy is wrong on another count. This requirement with respect to medical expenses and repatriation expenses is not new.” Ms. Siemer was not truthful again. I never said that it was new. She said, "Wendy elected not to participate in the process of developing this program. That is her right. And she elected not to give us her views about medical expenses and repatriation expenses while we were considering this issue." This is also not true. Ms. Siemer failed to tell the readers that I acknowledged over a month before this umbrella permit proposal came out that DOL was requesting workers to agree to this very same provision when they applied for a renewal extension. In fact, I did give my views. I asked Ms. Siemer to remove it from the transfer cover sheet. On September 3, 2009 I sent her an email stating this:
"The cover sheet violates PL 15-108 Section 4954(a) which states "the last employer of record of a foreign worker shall be responsible for the cost of repatriating the worker. " You cannot have guest workers sign that paper, because it is a violation of the law. Why doesn't DOL go after the employers and ensure that they have a return ticket? How can a poor worker even be expected to come up with money for a ticket? That is totally unreasonable. I am certain that this cover sheet is what the guest workers have been complaining about. Please remove this statement about repatriation from the cover sheet."
After several workers and leaders of guest worker groups contacted me to complain, I asked an attorney for a legal opinion on this policy. I was told that it was not legal as it conflicts with PL 15-108, the labor law that Ms. Siemer helped to write. So why on earth would she even think that I would support such a provision now if I previously stated it was illegal and even asked for it to be removed from transfer cover sheets? She absolutely knew my position. She ignored it.

This agreement in the permit does not mention a time span or say it kicks in after 96 days. It simply states:
Seeking employment: This permit may be revoked under circumstances when the holder is not employed and is seeking employment unless the holder makes diligent efforts to locate full time employment suitable to the holder’s skills and abilities and finds an employer within a reasonable time. While seeking employment, the holder of this permit is responsible for all medical and repatriation expenses for the holder and any sponsored alien immediate relatives and for the full support of any minor children, and the holder will maintain sufficient resources or provide a sufficient bond or undertaking by a financially responsible third party to meet these obligations. CNMI law provides no right to an extension of time to seek employment; each request is considered by a hearing officer on the merits of the written request as to whether employment is likely to be obtained within a reasonable time and any risk to the Commonwealth has been met.
The entire permit raises questions. Where is there a mention of after 96 days? What is a reasonable length of time to find a new employer? A day, a week, a month? Until a person is starving? What kind of legal document contains ambiguous language like this?

Ms. Siemer asked me to work with “them” after the May hearing. It is true that I declined. I responded saying this:
As you may know, my human rights work is something I have been committed to since 1988 and I continue to perform on my own time with my own personal funds. For that reason I am very selective in my activities and focus. Both my time and funds are limited. My primary goals are: to are ensure that the foreign contract workers are treated fairly and respectfully and are viewed as valued members of the community and future citizens, not as replaceable commodities; to encourage a federal immigration system implemented with a just and democratic transitional guest worker program in the CNMI; and to ensure that all long-term (5 or more years) foreign contract workers who come to the U.S. (including the CNMI) to work are provided a pathway to U.S. citizenship.

I seriously do not believe that you and I have the same goals. I see your work as supporting the Fitial Administration's goals of trying to maintain the local system, which promotes indentured servitude and has allowed the theft of labor from innocent foreigners. You want to maintain that system; I want to replace it. I do not think it would advance my goals or benefit the foreign contract workers for me to collaborate with you.

It became quite clear to me and many of the foreign workers that your intentions with the forums on "local status" were to advance Fitial Administration goals, which are to prevent federalization and maintain the local system.

If you think I am wrong on my views, I will certainly listen to what you have to say. But if our goals are so far apart, as I believe them to be, then I think my time would be better spent advancing my work in regard to promoting a just federal transitional program and ensuring that all foreigners who come to work on U.S. soil are treated justly and given a pathway to U.S. citizenship after 5 years duration.
How very disingenuous to pretend that the umbrella permits are anything but an attempt to keep the maximum amount of guest workers in the CNMI for the maximum amount of time and to maintain local control the dysfunctional local labor system for as long as can be. The authors are not concerned that the economy has crashed and these poor people who are requesting renewals have little hope of landing a position. They are not concerned that the workers do not qualify for federal assistance and are struggling to survive with no money.

If a person makes the choice to sign a permit, of course, I will respect that choice, but again, I would not recommend signing the permits until questions are answered. I understand that inquiries have been made to both local and federal officials requesting clarification on issues.

If the Fitial administration, its officials, and its volunteers were truly concerned with the welfare of the guest workers, stabilizing the CNMI economy and ensuring a secure labor pool they would ask the Department of Interior to recommend to the U.S. Congress that they immediately introduce legislation to grant every guest worker, and every alien in the CNMI a green card and direct pathway to citizenship.


Anonymous said...

Deanne Siemer has a lot of nerve to misrepresent this. Did she forget that Wendy wrote to her to tell her that her policy was illegal? Who would forget that?

She signed her letter to the editor as Deanne Siemer Department of Labor. The other day she was representing the OAG. The other day it was Fitial. Who is this chick?

Anonymous said...

Is she a member of the CNMI Bar and can she practise here?

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, unlike Jim Benedetto, yes she is.

Anonymous said...

I respect you for writing this and standing up to her. Leaving something out is not telling the truth as much as saying something false. People think cause she's a lawyer she knows more than you.Lawyers oppose each other in court everyday and they do not see eye to eye. This sure sounds not legal.

Anonymous said...

NONI 12:33
Jim Benedetto was not required to belong to the bar and is not required to. What is your point? Jealous of his record? HE KICKS ASS!

Anonymous said...

Hey so she is a member of our CNMI Bar...

Also unlike Jim didn't she have that ethics violation in which she was personally fined $500,000 and fired from the practice she was at and dis-barred from that state?

If so, did the CNMI Bar know this? Do they care? Isn't Maya Kara (the lady working together with Deanne right now) the head of the bar here in the CNMI?

Anonymous said...

Here's another question. Didn't the new AG oversee this entire farcical project? Isn't it under the AG Task Force? What is he thinking? Does anyone on this island care about maintaining a reputation? Or is it Willens and Siemer who are really the AG? Remember when acting AG Baka hadn't even approved the federal lawsuit? It was all Willens, Siemer and Fitial.

Time for answers said...

The bad guys are running out of time...tick-tock-tic-tock

Anonymous said...

Dianne Siemer said, "When the Department of Labor was considering whether to allow extensions of time to transfer, we sought the views of the foreign workers and their representatives. We had a meeting at the department that was well-attended. We asked what people thought was fair. The compromise I have described above — more time to look for jobs for the workers and more assurance against financial burdens for the community — was hammered out at that meeting. We also discussed what would be a fair fee to reimburse the department for all the extra time and effort that would go into implementing this compromise. Only then did the department put the compromise into place." I don't no 1 worker who said they was there. Tell us workers who are you that meet with Dianne to decide for us. Was this meetings announced? who voted representatives for workers? who are these?

Anonymous said...

The Covenant Section 903 lawsuit was filed when Matt Gregory was AG.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you should look for the positive contributions she has made to the CNMI.

She takes credit for writing Article 12 so now impoverished locals aren’t allowed to sell their own land. She has been invited as a guest speaker for the Saipan Chamber of Commerce. She authored or helped to author Pl-15-108. She has defamed numerous of your citizens as an acting unpaid employee for a dysfunctional circus of corruption in the CNMI DOL. She hurt locals by lobbying against the minimum wage increase and helped Tan's Governor screw locals again by covering guest workers with a blanket there. She fought hard to keep guest workers enslaved until she realized that sending them home would mean businesses would need to pay locals...highly unlikely the next 2years.

Hello…your Governor is not smart enough to hire a DC shyster that already had a half million dollar fine under her belt for unscrupulous conduct, but Tan was. When wicked business people want results, they hire experienced crooks to represent them.

Anonymous said...

3:01 And he never signed off on it did he? All of the AGs under the Fitial Administration are pawns of Willens and Siemer. They are throwaways just like the OCWs. If they don't ride on with the corruption, then Fitial puts in a new one. Just like department heads.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Is there a bevy of outstanding, extraordinarily qualified prospective department heads just waiting in the wings eager to serve the Commonwealth?

Some of our legislators should take the initiative to raise the department head pay effective January 11th, so no matter who wins, we will be able to recruit and retain such highly qualified public servants.

See how well its working at CUC. We shouldn't need a federal court order to do this.

Is there anyone awake in the legislature?

Anonymous said...

The current administration is corrupt and vile like pus oozing from an open sore. Every week another emergency and scandal. We have reached rock bottom. Vote!

Anonymous said...

Every day another vapid complaint by the usual do-nothing whiners.

Is it any wonder our Commonwealth is in its current state?!

There will be an answer, let it BE!

Anonymous said...

Let it be not Ben!

Anonymous said...

"Some of our legislators should take the initiative to raise the department head pay effective January 11th, so no matter who wins, we will be able to recruit and retain such highly qualified public servants."

It is not about the pay for department heads. Joe Kevin has no hospital management experience, Joyner no environmental experience, Tony no utilities experience, Faisao no experience, all the acting acting acting heads... no experience.

It is not about money it is about dumb political hires made by this governor. 4 more years? Why?

At the bare least if you are going to hire for a political favor make damn sure the guy guy has some damn experience. JESUS CHRIST! How many people will have to die or suffer greatly because of this Governors short sighted (help my buddies) mentality.


Anonymous said...

You know, if the employer was involved with the process I think it would be fine. I have a few contract workers that I renewed last March in anticipation of the June 1st takeover. I wanted them to have the maximum time available to work. Of course, after their permit expires they are supposed to transfer into a CNMI Guest Worker Program, but who knows. No regulations have been issued yet and there is a little over a month left. Technically, if my guys were to go down on the Nov. 27th and sign up for two years and get approved then they should be able to stay for a least two years no matter what. Of course, not everyone can be processed in one day. I think the problem is with the employers that do not want to keep their employees after their permits expire. Where do these people go? My folks want to stay and I want them to stay as long as possible, but there is uncertainity now and I agree that this progam just muddies up the water a bit more.

Anonymous said...

What quality of lawyers are there in Saipan if this permit is what they come up with? Take out the provision about repatriation and healthcare and let the guest workers sign something decent.