DOL 2009 Annual Report Released


















January 21, 2010

The CNMI Department of Labor has released its Annual Report for 2009. The first line sums up the function of the department: "The Department is a revenue-generating agency."

Of course the guest workers should know this because each year they spend a large chunk of their meager salaries to pay costly fees to DOL. Even the guest workers who lost their jobs were milked by DOL for Temporary Work Authorization permits and monthly renewal fees. Guest workers who were illegally terminated or have labor cases filed in courts, with EEOC, or NLRB also had to pay for TWAs in order to remain in the CNMI to pursue their cases.

Although the guest workers were issued "free" umbrella permits that claim to be valid until 2011, they have been called to "report back to DOL". For what? Some who have lined up at the DOL claim that they ended up paying fees or were told that their permits would be revoked.

DOL reported that it collected a total of $5.4 million in revenue in 2009. They did not offer a detailed breakdown of the fees collected, but we can assume that the guest workers contributed the bulk of the money. Even the fees that by law should have been paid by employers have typically been paid by the guest workers, many of whom have been told, "If you don't pay the renewal fees, you will not be renewed."

The department claimed that their expenses were $1.1 million with 95% of the expenditures covering personnel costs. The remaining revenue goes to fill the CNMI coffers.

A significant amount of DOL revenue has been used to pay the rent for their office space. DOL's contract with Sablan Construction shows that when it ends in September 30, 2010 the CNMI government will have paid $5,577,811.20 to lease the 2nd floor of the Afetnas Square building for the last 12 years. The CNMI government could have built an entire building to house the department and other agencies for less money than that.

Contracts and billing records for hearing officers indicate that the attorneys like Herb Soll, Maya Kara and Linn Asper earn $50.00 an hour for their services. What is interesting to note is that for the last few years the Fitial Administration has claimed that the labor complaints have decreased and the back log has been cleared up, but letters that accompany contract renewals for the attorneys state the opposite.

From one such contract statement written and signed in November 2008:
Due to continuing increase in the volume of pending labor and agency cases, backlog of administrative hearing matters and continuing increase in the number of appeal filings, the Department of Labor, Administrative Hearing Office requires immediate services of Mr. Herbert D. Soll. Mr. Soll possesses unique knowledge and extensive administrative hearing officer experience, allowing him to assume his responsibilities without further training. The current situation in the hearing office is continually approaching a crisis in delivery of services. In light of these circumstances, we hereby request expedited processing and contracting with Mr. Soll for his services.
Submitted this 10th day of November 2008.




















Another page in this contract states that the cases are piling up on Tinian and Rota, as well:
The Department Offices on Rota and Tinian have a large backlog of labor cases. Soll shall conduct hearings at those locations in addition to Saipan. The Department shall provide full support of facilities and personnel for the conduct of such hearing. During the course of the hearing the government employees assigned as support personnel shall be under the direction of Soll.
The dishonesty of DOL is staggering. One month before writing up the November 2008 contract that claimed an increase in labor cases, a backlog of cases, and outstanding appeals, DOL Deputy Secretary Cinta Kaipat issued an October 16, 2008 DOL-issued press release that bragged:
LABOR ANNOUNCES COMPLETION OF CASE BACKLOG PROJECT

The Department of Labor announced yesterday that it had completed a 24-month project to clean up all pending labor cases and agency cases from the years 1997 through 2007. "We completed the adjudication and closure of 4,968 cases," Deputy Secretary Jacinta M. Kaipat reported. "We started this project in October 2006 and we finished at the end of September 2008, just as we said we would," she said.

The project covered labor cases, in which individuals bring complaints to the Labor Department, usually about unpaid wages or overtime, and also covered agency cases in which the Department itself brings a case against an employer, usually about company-wide practices. Because the Department has very limited manpower and was swamped with cases, it could not make much progress with the backlog in 2006.

"We recruited Deanne Siemer to help us in October 2006. She is a very experienced trial lawyer and has served as a judge and mediator in many complex cases in the United States. We asked her whether we could conceivably clean up all the cases that had built up over the years," Kaipat said. "Deanne told us this could be done with a crew of experienced, trained, temporary paralegals, so we authorized her to recruit those people to help. Ultimately, she recruited four people, all of whom are locals," Kaipat said.
What utter propaganda (BS) penned to support the anti-federalization lawsuit and other items on the Fitial Administration's agenda.

DOL's recent comment to INCIS and statements in their anti-federalization lawsuit magnify the intent of the Fitial Administration to maintain local control over foreign labor. One of the primary reasons is to keep that revenue coming in on the backs of the foreign workers! The department is concerned with revenue and fees, but unfortunately it routinely disregards the rights of the foreign labor force claiming that cases are "closed" even though thousands of cheated workers never collected their money.

To be continued...

14 comments:

Melberlin said...

Wondering why until now nobody even from Anonymous offer to provide any legal advice on what should aliens do if they must go to DOL or not? Are some of these lawyers are expecting that someone will come to their door and ask for advice then their service fee will be the next to discuss? I would like to call all aliens paralegals (as Anonymous) to contribute any legal advice to our friends who cannot afford to pay or having a wish or desire to know something what is going on with this DOL's chicaning. There are paralegals who completed law degree but not bar license here and I believed they knew what legal rules are.

Thanks Nelia A. ... this matter has been discussed well in your party tonight and seems like guests were so occupied with this subject and some provided guidance.

Anonymous said...

Merberlin

The attorney to ask is Pam Brown and she is the federal ombudsman. The advice is to go to the office or call with questions!

The Micronesian Legal Service Attorney Jane Mack also offered advice quoted in another post on Unheard!

Anonymous said...

Older Posts:

January 19, 2010 "Do not go the DOL"
Anon January 19, 2010 11:17 PM

January 17, 2010 "Umbrella Permits: Confusion at DOL"
Anon January 19, 2010 12:23 AM

The CNMI DOL may very well be operating without any authority, however challenging that authority could result in unintended results.

the teacher said...

This administration issued umbrella permits at the 12 hour to continue the CNMI DOL, to create a situation resulting in a two year delay in federalization of labor, and to keep unemployed aliens here for another two years.

Of the 22k people that signed with the Ombudspersons office, only about 2k are employed by our major hotels and largest companies. With even 10k of the other 20k gone, supply and demand will prevail in our small market and wages will rise sharply. This administration has never wanted the CGWs to leave, they want them restricted, and they want too many workers so that workers will remain cheap and willing to work under any terms.

We have too many workers here now and our economy can not support it. US investor and worker regulations will reduce the number of foreign workers here, as that is one intent of the law.

The bottom line is that illegal freelancers can't operate here anymore and CGWs should be more concerned with getting a job than an umbrella permit.

Anonymous said...

The umbrella permit have at least gave temporary relief to the many CWs. Anyone can always go aand leave if they feel the umbrella permit do not have any temporary protection for them.

Melberlin said...

Anon 1/23/10 12:29 AM,

Your advised is erstwhile; even my kid knows to go to Pam or Jane. Have you notice that until now there are still disarrays eventhough your advised has been told to almost everybody eversince the start of this DOL's regs? because some have work and some have no car to go to these offices (taxi???).

So my suggestion is simpler and will reach to most concern, especially if they publicize in the paper.

Thanks for the advice anyway.

Saipan Writer said...

We're really all waiting to hear from the USCIS. I expected them to issue a statement to help clarify their position. I've been told that the USCIS 1) recognizes umbrella permits as granting immigration status through the full period--despite the dates listed on them for possible revocation; 2) recognizes umbrella permits as granting authority to work.

If they would only say this, as an official policy, we could all know how to proceed.

But instead we have uncertainty because the umbrella permits are an unknown quantity, without precedent.

So right now, no blanket statements or advice for all can be stated categorically, without conditions and cautions.

I feel for the workers lining up again.

Melberlin said...

Thanks Jane at least you made us free from confusion or ambiguity; you are right, no official policy yet as of this time.

Anonymous said...

I personally don't think the CNMI DOL should be operating, but I highly doubt the statement from Saipan Writer is true.

"I've been told that the USCIS 1) recognizes umbrella permits as granting immigration status through the full period--despite the dates listed on them for possible revocation; 2) recognizes umbrella permits as granting authority to work."

If that was the case are you saying that students with umbrella permits have permission to work, that employees can change employers at will. If that is true is the new employer responsible for bonds, medical, worker's comp, and is the former employer still responsible for any of these costs if the employee leaves? Can workers without any experience work at skilled jobs? Does the 20%local employee rule still apply?

If all that was really true, Misamis Construction would be having a field day, and even they succummed to the CNMI DOL requirements.

Anonymous said...

I know that this question is out of line but please, answer... "is 20%compliance" still in effect? Thanks!

the teacher said...

I think the 20% hiring rule is unconstitutional because if any person has legal authorization to work, then no business may discriminate against them based on race, religion, gender, or anything else. I also think our local law would be laughed at by any court in the land...but I'm just a school teacher that thought the case against America had no merit.

A HR office for a company could describe qualifications for an open position that stipulate that a prospective employee must be a US citizen or permanent resident, which I believe some of our larger companies do now.

The idea of forcing businesses to hire CGWs currently in the CNMI instead of new hires from abroad also violates constitutional rights. I have heard this idea mentioned a lot but I doubt if it is legal.

My understanding is that an umbrella permit granting authority to be here and work will be useless without a job from a real employer under the CW regulations and program.

Melberlin - I don't offer legal analysis as I am a layman that only represents male senior citizens living at my place, but common sense would be to call the Ombudsperson until the regulations are posted. I suspect the regs will be nearly identical to the originals.

Anonymous said...

Ron is correct. Anyone with questions should contact the Ombudsman's office.

Anonymous said...

The teacher stated "A HR office for a company could describe qualifications for an open position that stipulate that a prospective employee must be a US citizen or permanent resident, which I believe some of our larger companies do now."

Although I have seen a few in today's paper, advertising preference for U.S. citizens or permanant residents is highly illegal. Gilick spoke about that issue a few times to Chamber members. It is also contrary to online training for the federal E-Verify system. The correct question to ask (in an interview) would be is the applicant authorized to work in the U.S. What about those with U.S. or CNMI Refugee status, and IR's, who are legally athorized to work, are they being discriminated?

As far as the 20% percent hiring rule, it is farce. But allowing a qualification of ten years experience and a college degree for a job paying $4.55 is a farce as well. Both would be laughed at in the mainland.

Anonymous said...

20% compliance is farce, Ok, I do understand that but the question is, is it still being implemented or is it legal per Kaipat's Labor law or what?