Forum Consensus: No harm in signing umbrella permit

October 24, 2009

Yesterday at American Memorial Park a forum was held to discuss umbrella permits. Representative Tina Sablan was the moderator. Participants in the forum were Attorney Jane Mack of Micronesian Legal Services, Attorneys Mark Hanson, Maya Kara, Steve Woodruff, Jed Horey, and CNMI Attorney General Ed Buckingham. Guest workers reported that about 400 people attended the forum that was sponsored by the United Workers' Movement-NMI and the Filipino Contract Workers Association (FILCOWA).

The consensus from guest workers and other attendees who communicated with me after the forum was that the permit was clearly another effort by the Fitial Administration to maintain the broken CNMI labor system even after November 28, 2009. Although the intent is certainly not beneficial to the guest workers, signing the permit should not further harm the workers and should actually allow them to remain in the CNMI until November 27, 2011.

As I said yesterday, a federal official informed me that the guest workers should not be hurt by signing the umbrella permits even though there are unanswered legal questions involving the permits. These questions include whether or not Immigration, rather the DoL has the power to issue such a permit; whether the provision requiring guest workers to agree to pay for their own repatriation and medical care is legal; and whether the Department of Labor will even have the authority after November 28, 2009 to enforce other provisions of the permit.

Here is the schedule for picking up umbrella permits.

Representative Sablan sent the following email message to Attorney General Edward Buckingham, the panelists, advocates, legislators, officials and the press containing questions asked during the forum. If the Attorney General, DoL officials, or Governor's Office do answer any of the questions formally I will print the responses here. From Representative Sablan:
Thank you again to all our panelists (Attorney General Ed Buckingham, Micronesian Legal Services director and attorney Jane Mack, and private attorneys Steve Woodruff, Jed Horey, Maya Kara, and Mark Hanson) for taking the time on Saturday to participate in the forum on umbrella permits, to the forum organizers including United Workers Movement and PILCOWA, and to the American Memorial Park for providing a comfortable venue.

As promised, here are the questions submitted by audience members during the forum. My apologies for the delay. I decided to include all of the questions that were submitted, including those that were already asked, and to organize them by general topic -- for the benefit of those who were not able to participate in the forum, and also for those panelists and audience members who did not comment at the time that the questions were asked, but who may wish to comment now:


On whether or not the umbrella permits have been finalized
1) Has the umbrella permit form been finalized already? If so, where can people find the true and final copy of the umbrella permit and the umbrella permit policy?

2) If the umbrella permit program has already been finalized and Labor has already started issuing such permits as of last week and continuing on Monday, Oct. 26, why is the Attorney General and the immigration protocol task force meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 27, to discuss issues that have been raised about the umbrella permits?

3) Is it possible for Labor to delay the distribution of the umbrella permit until the Attorney General and Immigration Division have resolved all issues regarding umbrella permits?

4) If the umbrella permit has not been finalized yet - why not, and why has Labor already started issuing them?

On umbrella permits with respect to existing CNMI and federal laws

1) What are the compelling reasons for having Labor issue these permits, instead of Immigration?

2) If the umbrella permit does not require an employer, and is not an actually an authorization to work in the CNMI, why is Labor issuing these permits and not Immigration?

3) If U.S. Public Law 110-229 clearly states that all valid CNMI immigration permits will be recognized, why not make these umbrella permits come from Immigration so that there is no confusion about whether or not these permits are valid?

4) Why should federal immigration authorities recognize umbrella permits if they are issued by the CNMI Department of Labor and not CNMI Immigration?

5) If CNMI Public Law 15-108 clearly states that the last employer of record is responsible for medical expenses and repatriation expense, why was language included in the umbrella permit that is contrary to that legal requirement?

6) Does the umbrella permit supercede any provisions in the existing CNMI labor law?

7) Can a guest worker who holds an umbrella permit change his/her job classification?

8) Does the umbrella permit program have any effect on the requirement to prioritize local hires?

9) Are umbrella permits authorized under CNMI law? If so, where specifically?

10) Will umbrella permits allow guest workers to work freely in the CNMI until November 27, 2011 without following existing CNMI labor regulations (i.e., processing fees, job vacancy announcements, etc.)?

11) What guarantee or assurances has the federal government given that it will recognize umbrella permits after November 27, 2009?

On existing contracts and renewals/extensions
1) Can employees continue to work for their employers even after their contracts expire, as long as they continue to hold an umbrella permit?

2) Should employers still seek two-year permits for their employees, or are their existing one-year work permits with a two-year umbrella permit essentially the same thing?
3) Will employees whose contracts expire next year (2010) still be able to renew their contracts with their employers for at least one more year (until November 2011) under the CNMI guest worker program?

4) If employers are willing to renew or extend contracts up to November 27, 2011, should employees still pick up their umbrella permits?

5) Will guest workers whose contracts expire before November 28, 2011 still be able to renew or extend their contracts with their employers up to November 28, 2011? Will they have to renew or extend their work permits if they have umbrella permits? Will there be fees to pay?

6) Are umbrella permits renewable?

7) Is there a fee for umbrella permits? If so, what is it?

8) Will the CNMI Department of Labor be able to issue permit renewals or extensions after November 27, 2009 and before November 27, 2011? If so, how will guest workers who hold umbrella permits renew their entry permits after November 27, 2009, and how much will it cost?

9) Will employers no longer need to pay to renew expiring work contracts if their employers avail of umbrella permits?

10) Will umbrella permits replace current work permits?

11) Do workers have to surrender their existing work permits if they accept the umbrella permit? Or will they hold two permits at the same time?

On travel
1) Will umbrella permit holders be able to exit and enter the CNMI freely with their umbrella permits after November 27, 2009? Are their any problems they may encounter in returning to the CNMI?

2) Will umbrella permit holders be able to reenter the CNMI with their umbrella permits if they take their repatriation tickets after their contracts expire?

On umbrella permit holders who are unemployed
1) Who will shoulder the repatriation or medical expenses of umbrella permit holders who are unable to find work and who cannot afford to cover such costs?

2) How many days do umbrella permit holders have to seek employment once their contracts have ended?

3) If an employer goes out of business one year into the umbrella permit period, will a guest worker then have 12 months to find new employment?

4) Will guest workers whose permits expire next year be able to obtain temporary work permits if they hold umbrella permits?

On other permit categories
1) What classes of work permits are not included under umbrella permits?

2) Will foreign students, missionaries, investors, and other entry permit holders be able to avail of the umbrella permit, or some permit like it?

3) Can recently-divorced immediate relatives avail of the umbrella permits and change their status to CNMI contract workers if they have found a prospective employer who is willing to hire them?

On workers with pending cases
1) Will umbrella permits cover workers who have cases filed in federal court or with federal agencies such as EEOC, NLRB, etc? If not, what should such workers do to ensure that their due process rights are protected?

2) What will happen to workers with pending cases, if their cases have not been resolved by the time their umbrella permits expire?

3) Will acceptance of the umbrella permits have any effect on pending cases in either local or federal court, or in local or federal labor agencies?

On umbrella permit revocation
1) What will happen to guest workers if their umbrella permits are revoked? Will they be deported? What if they have U.S. citizen children?

2) What are the specific circumstances under which an umbrella permit can be revoked?

On the role of the CNMI Department of Labor
1) Who will control and administer the umbrella permit program after November 28, 2007?

2) Why did no officials from the CNMI Department of Labor participate in the public forum?

3) Who will handle CNMI Department of Labor cases involving unpaid wages, liquidated damages, or enforcement of administrative orders and awards after November 27, 2009?

4) Does the CNMI Department of Labor, or any CNMI government agency, have the authority to revoke umbrella permits after November 27, 2009? If so, from where does the CNMI government derive the authority to revoke permits after November 27, 2009?

On the umbrella permit schedule
1) Can guest workers whose extensions expire before the day they are scheduled to pick up their umbrella permits (because of the alphabetical ordering of the umbrella permit schedule) request to pick up their umbrella permits earlier? Do they still need to pay $50 for an extension?

2) Will guest workers be able to pick up their umbrella permits after the scheduled date, if they are unable to come in according to the schedule?

3) Will guest workers be able to pick up their umbrella permits after November 27, 2009?

On overstayers and people out of status
1) Can overstayers avail of umbrella permits? If not, what can they do to regularize their status?

2) Can people who have fallen out of status but who have not yet been formally identified as overstayers avail of umbrella permits and regularize their status?

On future status and other issues after November 27, 2011
1) Would availing of the umbrella permit affect any improved status options that may be offered by the federal government in the future?

2) What will happen to guest workers after umbrella permits expire on November 2011? What if employers cannot afford to hire them under U.S. immigration law? What should employers and employees do to prepare?

3) Are the umbrella permits, and workers' acceptance of such permits, intended to be used in any way to support or otherwise affect the Governor's lawsuit against the federal government?

4) If the administration now believes, as it has publicly stated, that it is in the best interest of all parties in the CNMI to allow people who have been lawfully admitted to the CNMI to stay and continue to work in the CNMI for as long possible, will it also recommend improved status?
Some of the questions may have been answered within the proposed permit policy and in statements of agreement on the actual umbrella permit, but it is important to have all of the questions clearly answered and addressed by the administration in black and white.

As for the compelling questions, such as the last one, since the entire umbrella permit program appears to be a politically motivated ploy orchestrated as an attempt for DoL to maintain the local system of labor, don't look for any straight answers from the administration any time soon. The Governor's Office, Office of Attorney General, and Department of Labor officials do not even possess the common courtesy to be able to respond to emails inquiring acknowledgment of an open government act request that I sent to them (Governor Fitial, Attorney General Buckingham, and DoL Secretary San Nicolas through Attorney Eli Golob) on October 12, 2009. Because they would not acknowledge receipt of the faxed and email requests, the open government act request was also hand carried to the officials, date stamped, and signed as received on October 19, 2009. Still there has been no acknowledgment or response to that request.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Hanson spells his first name "Mark."

Wendy said...

Thanks -corrected!

Anonymous said...

You just can't stand it when Governor Fitial is doing more for the Guest Workers than you are eh Wendy?

It just pisses you off, don't it!

captain said...

Fitial does not know what direction he is going, and he is/has not been doing anything for the guest workers, he is doing something for his "godfather" who is in hiding.(and other business friends)
From his telling all of the guest worker "to go home" to telling the US Congressional delegates "They are all illegal and will be deported soon" to taking off the proposal for a "permanent status" to "sign this umbrella" so the employer is not liable for medical and repatriation anymore" Again circumventing an existing law.(as he usually does. This paper will most likely be useless after the takeover anyway.
Fitial is on another scam to collect much needed votes.
I would predict that if, by any slim chance, he was to get relected again, there would be the biggest outcry and demonstrations that ever have happened in the CNMI in it's history.
I doubt that he would ever sit in that office again after January, even if he happened to get reelected. You would then see an impeachment and other things happen.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 2:57

Your rude comment does not deserve a response, but for the benefit of the guest workers, my Washington DC readers, and others new to the issue, I will respond.

Governor Fitial made it very clear where he stands on guest worker issues from the time he entered office. His position is that he wants them to remain indentured servants with no political or social rights. Here are just a few examples of Fitial's treatment of the guest workers:

1. Fitial hired many lobbyists to block federalization to maintain the dysfunctional labor system that is unjust and undemocratic.

2. Fitial shouted at the guest workers outside the August 2008 hearing that he would "send them all home."

3. Fitial maintained a system of labor that continues to deny workers due process and appealed to the U.S. officials to maintain that system.

4. Fitial filed an anti-federalization lawsuit without the approval of the CNMI legislature and danced around where the funds came from.

5. Fitial endorsed Lynn Knight to lobby in Washington DC although she failed to register as a lobbyist.

6. Fitial testified on at least three occasions that he did NOT want the guest workers to receive U.S. status, green cards or a pathway to citizenship.

7. Fitial got federal funding for and backed a questionable economic report used to prop up his lawsuit, and also used an untruthful labor report (written by Siemer and singed off by his niece Kaipat) to back his latest testimony. Both were attempts to support his goals of keeping the broken CNMI labor system even under the federal takeover.

8. Fitial lobbied continuously against a fair minimum wage for workers and CNMI residents. He continues to fight a decent minimum wage.

9. Fitial had his volunteer, Deanne Siemer, come up with the protocol and umbrella permit as a last ditch effort to retain the local system EVEN under the federal program. So sly are they that they had it come from labor instead of immigration thinking that they could slide this all in so they could maintain the power to renew permits, revoke the permits, help businesses by taking away the responsibility of having to pay for repatriation and healthcare benefits (stick it to the workers), and keep a huge pool of cheap labor for businesses to maintain the status quo.

Governor Fitial and his administration are not friends of the guest workers, they are foes.

malou berueco said...

we, the GWs were more skeptical than others, i think...because we are the ones that would be directly affected by this...personally, at first, i was decided not to take this permit, but then i tried to open my mind and check the possibilities by attending the forums, nightly debate and discussions/brain storming with my "circle", by constanly and persistently throwing questions to atty. woodruff even the least important ones...we (atty.w. and the group) argued a lot...but due to his untireless effort to explain to us the laws and language of the laws (as we are IGNORANT) and from the opinions of other reliable people too, i have come to the point,where i finally decided to take this permit-----FOR THIS MAY NOT HARM US BUT RATHER MAY OPEN FOR SOME GOOD POSSIBILITIES FOR US...who knows? nobody knows yet what would happend after nov.28, 2009. ?
it is just becoming fortunate now, that the regs.for transitional workers will be out by tuesday, oct.27, 2009...then we will see...anyway, they told us we could always at anytime surrender this permit, in case there is a better opportunites being offered to us by federal goverment....
people can tell us "GWs" anything, everything under the sun, but none of you, if you are not GWs, would ever feel how we feel because you were never in our might have been, but in different circumstances and time...
i also took into considerations the opinons of ms. wendy, mr.ron hodges, dr.arkle, ms. tina sablan, our congen and at the end, it would be me, the GWs, who will decide for ourselves...
thank you ms. wendy and to ALL the PEOPLE for the endless effort to fight what is best for us...

Wendy said...

Hello Malou:

Thank you for your comment! I know that you have personally been researching, asking questions, and attending the meetings and forums. The best way to find out the truth is to actively seek it, which is what you have done.

I still have serious concerns with this entire program and oppose the intent, which is to maintain the broken system under the federal transitional guest worker program. However, after being assured by a federal official that it is unlikely that the questionable provisions of the permit will be upheld under the federal program so signing the permit will most likely not harm the guest workers and could possibly help many to stay for the two years, I think it would be safe to sign it. I agree, Malou that the decision should be made by the guest workers themselves after weighing all the options and reflecting upon what path they want to take for their future.

I hope that the federal government has issued regulations that will finally provide the guest workers with a respectful, just, and democratic guest worker program. A few days from now, we will see.

Anonymous said...

Whatever Wendy! We all know how much you hate Governor Fitial. Guess what, Wendy, Governor Fitial will win this November 7th and he will win on the Run-Off Election, if one is required.

I wonder what would that do to you, Wendy!

BTW, your comments are much more rude than mine!

Governor Fitial is right to sue the Feds on the Labor Issue. This is something you are having a hard time understanding because you are blinded by your hatred to our good Governor.

malou berueco said...

anon above: you also know how the governor hates us "GWs" now that the governor, as it looks like (we pretend)trying the GWS to stay, believes that we are important in cnmi recovery and we have a significant contirbutions to cnmi economy, you also agree on that????

Wendy said...

Anonymous 7:48

Let's be clear. I do not "hate" governor Fitial. I totally disagree with his policies regarding the guest workers, federalization and the minimum wage.

It would do nothing to me if Fitial was re-elected. However, it would be a disaster for the foreign contract workers and their families (for all of the reason I have stated above). It would mean that the poorest of the CNMI residents who are also the ones who earn minimum wage would also be kept down.

Wendy said...

Yes, the governor wants the foreign workers to stay as long as they remain under his control as a disenfranchised underclass with no political or social rights.

Anonymous said...

That was very kind of all of them to take time out of their Saturday for this forum.

Thank you to Jed Horey, Mark Hanson, Christina Sablan, Steve Woodruff, Maya Kara, Jane Mack and Ed Buckingham. Thank you to the organizer as well, Ronny, Malou, PILCOA and UWM.

Anonymous said...

Also kind of you Wendy to post all the information here and assist with the questioning. Thank you too.

Observer Notes Part One said...

A couple points of note. I was at the forum and I was glad that a few details came out.

- I still have not seen a finalized permit. I saw one that was a copy but I am unsure if it was the final permit. Steve Woodruff read something off an umbrella permit that I did not see on the copy I had. It would be highly beneficial to all parties involved if the Department of Labor posted a final copy online.

- The million dollar question that still has yet to be answered was not answered at the forum. It was asked twice and brought up multiple times but never truly addressed. "Why is this permit being issued by Labor and not by Immigration?" The AG tried to say it was because CNMI Immigration will cease to exist after Nov 28. That should have no bearing though. All these permits must be issued before that date. Later when the AG was asked again he was honest and said he would have to avoid answering it. He stated he would be having a private meeting with the Protocol group on Tuesday and they would look at all options. Horey attempted to explain why it made no difference if it came from Labor and read the CRNA but it was pretty clear to everyone including himself after the read that the CRNA will recognize all legal IMMIGRATION permits. I have my guess why it is being handled by Labor but rather than antagonize I will hope that the AG switches the permitting process to CNMI Immigration before Nov 28.

Observer Notes Part Two said...

- Many times at the forum members of the Protocol group made references to the Umbrella Permit being a safety net. They recommended all guest workers sign up for it for that reason. No one however is sure if this is a safety net. No one knows if it will be recognized. Therefor one could argue that the level of certainty is about the same as waiting to see what the Federal Guest Worker Transitional Permit will offer to current 240K workers. A few people made references to this being like getting handed a new car for free. Why would you question it or look under the hood or kick the tires? Just take it. I will build on that analogy. Say you are in dire need of transportation. You start looking around for a trustworthy and reliable vehicle. While in the process of looking someone says, "Here are the keys to a new car, just take it for free. It is in my garage and you can swing by and grab it on Nov 28." I would tell anyone to go ahead and take the keys. But do not stop looking for reliable transportation. Why? For all you know there may not be a car in the garage or the car in the garage may not run. Without checking it out you only have keys. So if people want to grab these keys (umbrella permit) than do so. But please don't stop perusing other methods of getting reliable transportation. In this case a 2 year 240K renewal before Nov 28 and lobbying both locally for status, Kilili for federal status and asking Labor to transfer processing of permits and handling of them over to CNMI Immigration.

Observer Notes Part Three said...

- I overheard a person telling guest workers not to renew their current 240K for a 2 year 240K renewal. He told them to simple renew for 1 year and get the umbrella permit. He said it was cheaper and it was the same in the end. I personally don't think this is good advice. I would advise everyone to get the maximum length 240K permit renewal you can (should be 2 years). You can still get the umbrella permit on top of that. But to opt not to get a 2 year 240K to save $300 is a huge risk and may cost you well over $300 to litigate the validity of the umbrella permit or get a federal transitional guest worker visa when your 1 year is up.

- Everyone at the forum believed that if possible it would be good to legislate a 2 year permit. Jane thought it may not be possible with such a tight time frame. I have seen the legislature draft a bill and pass it in both houses and on the governors desk in 3 days. In this case the bill is already drafted so it may be very possible to do so. Again maybe it can be done in conjunction with a CNMI Immigration administrated Umbrella Permit.

- One last reason Immigration should handle these Umbrella permits came up when people asked why only 240K holders are being included. They said because all other local permits are under CNMI Immigration. It is also very important to note that everyone on the panel stated clearly (as the permit states) that the Umbrella Permit is NOT an authorization to work. Even more the reason it should not be associated primarily and solely with Department of Labor.

- If all present on the panel and all in attendance see that Immigration not Labor should have at bare least signed off on these permits, why did not one single legal mind on the protocol task force see that? I do not understand how that could have never been raised in the discussions they had. Again, I will try not to assume and impute ill motives on anyone involved. I do not see though why it is like pulling teeth to get our local CNMI Immigration to issue the permits so it falls in line legally with what is written in the CNRA.

Thanks again to all that attended and all the presenters I hope this was a great start to many more discussions on these immigration issues.

Wendy said...

Observer notes part one:

I posted the copy of the permit and policy that was sent to me (links in the post).

I believe that the administration had the permit come from labor rather than immigration as a final attempt of the Fitial administration to maintain control of their local labor system and the guest workers at least until November 2011. CNMI Immigration will be nonexistent after November 28th, but it appears that the administration is pushing for the CNMI DoL to continue running the transitional program. Both the protocol and the umbrella permit suggest that the primary motive is to maintain as much control of the system as they can while keeping the maximum number of foreign workers for the maximum amount of time for businesses.

In the protocol which is said to also have been written by Siemer, there is a statement about the CNMI government pushing for a "private contractor" to work with U.S. immigration. From the protocol:
Outsourcing of services by DHS
With respect to CBP functions (but not USCIS processing functions), a proposal for outsourcing certain port of entry jobs to a private CNMI contractor has been prepared for discussion with CBP in Washington. The private contractor would employ current Immigration Division employees and provide these employees to supplement CBP personnel assigned to the Commonwealth. The contractor personnel would work under the supervision of CBP on-site supervisors.

I heard that contractor the CNMI government was pushing to DHS is none other than Mel Grey. How could the U.S. government even consider such a proposal? Aren't there standard policies and wasn't one intent of the CNRA to have a uniform federal immigration system? Doesn't the U.S. government have to announce and bid out all contracts? The administration suggests that their hand-picked contractor do a job that is not even needed and the U.S. taxpayers will be expected to pay for this? It appears that the administration is even attempting to maintain some kind of control of immigration. Not a good idea especially since there have been numerous allegations of immigration personnel "fixing" permits.

Wendy said...

Observer Notes Part two:

Excellent analogy. I agree with you.

Last part said...

- one last note: The panel was asked about the medical and repatriation clauses in the Umbrella Permit. I understand what Steve said that the employees current contract is not harmed by signing this permit. CNMI law is also not altered. Also, if the worker has no money to pay for a ticket back most likely our government or the Federal government will if the bonding company or last employer doesn't. Therefor he stated that the statements regarding repatriation and medical coverage will not change anything. My question then is why are they included at all. I agree that it appears they do not affect the current 240k contract and I agree about the repatriation so why even put them in the umbrella permit?

Anonymous said...

Thanks you. I found the link to the Actual Umbrella Permit in the post. The copy I had at the forum was a faxed copy and it was cut off at the bottom.

- One other item. If the AG and the protocol task force is meeting on Tuesday to discuss modifications to the Umbrella Permit and perhaps including Immigration than why are they hading them out already?

Wendy said...

Observer notes part three -

I would also suggest that the foreign contract workers absolutely renew their contracts to the maximum length of time and at the same time sign the permit, if they desire. The contracts will be recognized after November 28th. Do we know that the umbrella permits will be?

Legislation would be beneficial and give the permit credibility. Doesn't anyone question why the protocol task force had no members of the CNMI legislature on it? Doesn't that also send a message?

It appears that the administration wanted the permits associated with labor because that is their attempt to keep their local system alive. I have a feeling that the regulations may eventually pull the plug on that life support system. The sooner, the better.

Yes, that is the million dollar question. All these attorneys who were allegedly involved with drafting the protocol and permit, and they ignored or failed to notice legal questions associated with the umbrella permits?

Wendy said...

Last part

Exactly! If what you have said is true, why can't the administration REMOVE that provision as I asked Deanne Siemer to do on the renewal extension cover sheet on September 4, 2009? Is it there in the permit as an effort to solicit votes from the businesses and employers who are let off the hook from paying these expenses? If it is not enforceable remove it!

Let me pose this question - If you are an employer and your guest worker has signed the umbrella permit freeing you of your legal, contractual obligation to pay his/her repatriation fees and medical costs would you? Or would you say , "Why pay! Let the CNMI (no money) or federal government pay this fee." Why on earth should the U.S. taxpayers pay for these expenses when contractually the employers are obligated to pay them? Let me ask my Congressman Alan Grayson about this and I'll get back to you!

Wendy said...

Anonymous 11:01

I believe that the time schedule may be linked to the election cycle, but I am not sure. If the AG is truly in charge of the protocol and permits, it seems that he should have reviewed and approved them before they were being printed and distributed.

Melberlin said...

To all Anons who are still fighting against our advocacy...
There are still lots of Anons that are posting their comments against Wendy and against other comments posted apparently from guest workers. As Ms. Burueco pointed out above, this umbrella permits only impacted guest workers and employers. Do all these commentators who opposes comments from guest workers are employers or plainly racist? Seems like there are no employers attending any of these forums held several days ago but I am sure negative comments came from racists not from employers, because this umbrella permit policy will also benefit the employers.
This issue is influencing strongly the general atmosphere of a situation and the effect that it has on guest workers; why don't you respect whatever these guest workers posted if it did not cause any injustice to you but to the guest workers alone.
These guest workers BUILT and continue building you economy!!! Give us respect and in return we will give you as good as we got!!! Pardon us if some guest workers wounding the feelings of others like you. The reason why we are having this campaign is because we want our own life in desirable and positive quality that majority of population here believes that it will also improve the economy that gains everybody in this island.
There will be no prosperity in this island if you are ungenerous. Can you name a country that are prosperous that don't welcome future citizens?

Wendy said...


You are correct in citing the vast contributions of the guest workers to the economy of the CNMI. They have also contributed greatly in other ways such as volunteering to improve the community. They have contributed in churches and organizations that they belong to, and in the public and private schools. Additionally, they pay taxes. The very least that you and the guest workers deserve is profound appreciation and respect.

Remove every guest worker from the CNMI and what would happen? How odd to me that the CNMI government is extremely concerned about maintaining Russian and Chinese visa waivers, but does not consider what would happen to tourism if they could not get enough skilled foreign labor to fill the thousands of jobs that they do not have the workforce to fill! Is it just me or are detractors of workers' rights arrogant to assume that the guest workers will always be there if they are not respected, if they are not appreciated, and if they are not offered permanent status? There certainly are other countries that offer pathways to citizenship and a stability for families that is not existent in the CNMI.

Melberlin said...

Thanks, Wendy... most of the guest workers I talked to are almost harboring ill feelings to what other people posting here against guest workers... is this what they want? to be hated or to be loved? Although me myself have a very nice and high paying job here with my family and no need to sign this umbrella permit; I still have a feeling of sympathy and sorrow for the misfortunes of others inflicted by people in power.
Have you seen politicians who think that showing feeling of dislike to the guest workers will win them votes? None.. because they are being unworthy of disrespect, informality in appearance and pathetic.

the teacher said...

Most think there is no harm from signing the umbrella permit and while everyone has different circumstances, the consensus is that while it may not help all, it could not hurt anyone. Well respected CNNI attorney and director of Micronesian Legal Services, Jane Mack, commented to the Marianas Variety “we do not have a written policy. We do not have a written regulation. We do not have written law. Until we have that, until I see that, I don’t know.”

I am sceptical of the intentions of Governor Fitial’s regime, and I hope the umbrella helps CGWs, but the only motive I can figure for a two year blanket is to freeze more workers here, which will keep the value of and cost of labour down, based on laws of supply and demand.

I had a question for the panel, but it is quite long, and the officer at AMP asked people standing near the door repeatedly to leave, as she could not have that many people in the room, so I left. I hope someone can be so kind as to answer my question.

1. Does the umbrella permit supersede the CNMI work permit? Another words, if a CGW is covered under both, why can’t the employer say “you are fired” either with just cause, or because the umbrella itself violated the original contract. Who will the CGW appeal this to? Will the CNMI maintain the dysfunctional DOL? I have already heard a NMI employer say that this (umbrella) will give employers a contract out and they will immediately fire 2 or 3 of their employees that sign the umbrella the day after federalization is enacted. His belief is that there is no more CNMI DOL and in an American system he can hire and fire whoever he wants, especially if the cost of hiring is more expensive under the new system. He also stated he would fire locals protected under the 20% rule just to show that he could. So the now unemployed former CGW is in desperate conditions, who will support them? The last employer will have no obligation. Will they be able to draw food stamps and other relief such as housing allowances, medical benefits, and aid to dependent children? If CGW’s avail themselves of public assistance, will that jeopardize a future hope for improved status? My limited experience with this would suggest that foreign nationals receiving aid would not ever qualify for a green card, not even if their children are US citizens.

Saipan Writer said...

Just to be clear--not all of us on the panel discussion are part of the protocol group. Me for example--I'm not on the protocol group.

Saipan Writer said...


FYI-when I click on the "schedule" for distribution of the umbrella permits, I'm getting a link to a highlighted protocol with comments, but not the schedule.

Wendy said...

Saipan Writer:

Thanks so much! I fixed the schedule.

Anonymous said...

It is interesting that the latest CNMI federal ombudsperson is not commenting on much these days.... Isn't she onboard to represent and help the contract workers?

Anonymous said...

She is probably doing her job and not politicking.

Anonymous said...

The ombudsman represents the guest workers and she does not need to go to the press to do that. They meet with her.

Anonymous said...

I kind of liked Benedetto's style... this woman is like a mouse.

Anonymous said...

I have it on good authority that she is too swamped interviewing trafficking victims to do much of anything else.