Debate About Status of Foreign Workers

January 3, 2011

Here we go again.  CNMI officials stating the obvious, but ignoring the simple solutions.  The Commonwealth Development Authority Executive Director Manuel Sablan told the Marianas Variety that the "exodus of the foreign workers would be a major problem." Ya think?

Gemma Casas reported:
CDA Executive Director Manuel Sablan said the yet to be finalized regulations for the transitional commonwealth worker, or CW, status is a major concern for the tourism industry, the backbone of the local economy.

Sablan said continued access to labor is important for any investor.

“The environment here must be stabilized for different categories of workers to attract new investments. If there’s an exodus of foreign workers, it’s going to be a major problem,” said Sablan.

Sablan said the CNMI economy still cannot move forward without a nonresident workforce.

“We need alien workers particularly if we’re pushing for a service industry,” said Sablan.

“It’s an unsettled issue. And that has to be settled before investors come in because chances are investors will require a steady supply of skilled workers,” he added.
The CNMI long-term foreign workers do not represent a workforce that is needed temporarily or on a seasonal basis. They are, as Sablan stated, the backbone of the private sector economy. The legal long-term foreign workers need to be granted green cards and a pathway to citizenship. Simple solution; problem solved.


Anonymous said...

There is no doubt that if green cards are granted thousands of workers will leave the CNMI. Not all because most have little money.

Those thousands that depart to the United States are in for a rude awakening. The US is at a double digit unemployment rate and climbing. Except for very specific qualification like RN, the work experience brought from the CNMI means very little if nothing in the US. A degree from Manila has absolutely no merit in the US.

If by some miracle Green Cards are granted to all the guest workers there had better be a plan in place for those who get on the first flight to DC in December. Some of these people have never been to the US or seen snow. How about getting an apartment? Car? Things are far different in the States than the province. I've been observing their 'plight' and 'suffering'. Really? Try standing in line at a soup kitchen in Detroit. They do not fully realize what they are wishing for. For the most part they are somewhat protected in the CNMI, sheltered.

Sure there are those with family in the US, but not all. Those thousands that make the pilgrimage with $200 in their pocket need to be educated, trained and prepared for what awaits them.

Anonymous said...

The idea of Univ. of Washington School of Law student Robert J. Misulich for Congress to amend the EB-4 Visa category to include certain CNMI guest workers is an excellent one.

However, to maximize the likelihood of passage and minimize adverse impacts on the CNMI, the following steps should be taken:

1) An economic study should be funded, including effects of varying the required period of residency, e.g., 3 years, 5 years, 8 years, 10 years, 12 years, 15 years.

2) Depending on the results of the economic study, serious consideration should be given to grandfathering those who have been here lawfully for a decade (or other length) or more.

An economic study will likely show that most recipients of such visas would move on to Guam or the mainland soon after receiving them, reducing or eliminating any speculative “cultural impact” on CNMI politics.

People knew federalization legislation was pending several years before final passage of Pub.L 110-229 on 8 May 08. The most recent arrivals within five years not only knew or should have known this, but also arrived when the CNMI economy was already collapsing, thus displacing the earlier workers who had sacrificed a great deal more and made greater contributions to the CNMI.

While trying to give even the most recent arrivals green cards has a certain “feel-good” quality to it, it lessens the likelihood of passage and smacks of overreaching.

Dekada had it right.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 7:34

What are you basing your information on?! I. There are pockets of places in the U.S. with high unemployment (Florida for one) and then there are states with low unemployment.

You said, "A degree from Manila has absolutely no merit in the US. " This is absolutely not true! There are many people here with engineering, teaching and medical degrees with great jobs. Some are my relatives!

There are also agencies and churches that help in relocation, but I agree that anyone planning on leaving, should do research and it would be best to line up a job in advance.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 7:54

There is no need for an economic study. The cultural impact has been realized. It isn't determined by the "status" of a person. The foreign workers have been community members for decades impacting the cultural makeup of the CNMI.

That argument about foreign workers displacing former workers makes little sense to me. If the CNMI did not have a disposable system that looked at workers as commodities there would have been no replacements.

The length of time should be 5 years, not ten years. Ten is far too long, but five is reasonable as Mr. Misulich, the DOI Report and other prior reasonable proposals suggested.

Anonymous said...

Unless the CNMI stops its internecine political bickering (“change” advocates and “good old boys” alike) and starts turning this economy around, there will be few new jobs in the next five years.

Without jobs, most foreign national workers will be gone in five years, green cards or no green cards.

One way or another, this situation will take care of itself.

Anonymous said...

I would estimate there are 2-3000 workers in the CNMI with college degrees that are making $5.05. The U.S. is in a recession, but things are not that bad. With a only a high school degree and working at McDonalds, California and Washington pays at least $10/hr. Without college and credit card debt, most non-residents in the CNMI would have a easy time living and adjusting in the mainland or Guam.

If green cards are granted the problem is how do we recruit new workers or do we then start to realize that we need to train our local people.

Anonymous said...

"With a only a high school degree and working at McDonalds, California and Washington pays at least $10/hr"

Get off the island, you've been there too long. $10/hr is at the poverty level. That isn't nearly enough money to make a living, especially in California. Donkey.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 11:32

The minimum wage is less! A living wage is estimated at $15.00 an hour. Most people who earn $7.50 to $10.00 an hour have more than one job or they share living quarters or expenses. Our members of Congress have no clue what a living wage is because the majority are millionaires.

Anonymous said...

If green cards are granted, the same thing will happen with CWs as has been happening with indigenous people: the best and brightest leave, while the leftovers (or those with lucrative connections) stay. It will be interesting to see how the market for highly skilled/educated workers pans out in the CNMI once those people can also work in the mainland US. That said, many of those considered "highly skilled/educated" by CNMI standards (be they CW, indigenous, mainlander, whatever) are at burger-flipper level by mainland US standards, and I do indeed foresee many rude awakenings to that effect.

Anonymous said...

Depending on what part of the U.S., you can survive on $10/hr. The CNMI is more expensive than most parts of the U.S. Gas, food, clothing, electricity, cable, internet, phone and even comparable housing is higher. So what does that say about people making $5.05 in the CNMI? If people are given permanent residency, they can also qualify for housing assistance, and other social welfare programs.

A couple flipping burgers in Houston, TX can net 2,000 per mo.

1bed apt. houston $400 mo.
electricity/cable/ $150 mo.
food $300 mo.
transportation $350 mo.
clothing/entertainment $200 mo.
Disposable income $800 mo.

If a husband and wife both earned $15/hr. their total income would be over 60K per year which is well above the national average.

Anonymous said...

Saipan is expensive.
Stateside employers almost never hire at minimum wage due to competition. Starting wages are always higher than minimum wage, even for the lowliest of jobs.
Until minimum wage goes up here, the economy will continue to be tedious.
This is the down-low. Accept it or not, that's the truth.

Anonymous said...

The problem isn't minimum wage, the problem is that employers can recruit skilled employees from abroad at minimum wage. Paying a houseworker 5.05/hr. is fine, but paying a nurse, accountant, or engineer $5.05 is where the problem lies. Requiring skilled employees to have years of experience to make $5.05 (which many employers do) is almost criminal. Prevaliing wages for non-resident hires, which are required in every federal visa are the only way to encourage employers to train workers and increase local private sector employment.

The Saipan Blogger said...

The argument that Saipan is more expensive than the mainland is a myth. A box of Captain Crunch might cost more, but rent and just about everything else is cheaper.

Anonymous said...

It's not just food that costs more!: Food costs are outrageous and fresh produce is lacking. Electricity, gasoline, and any consumer items cost far more. Rent is cheaper because the buildings are falling apart and couldn't even pass code in the mainland..

Anonymous said...

Depending on where you live, the only thing that maybe is more expensive than in the CNMI is rent, and if you're in one of a handful of cities, parking. Everything else is much more expensive in the CNMI. Power, gas, food, clothing, water, and anything else shipped in.

The Saipan Blogger said...

If Saipan is so much more expensive than the mainland, then please explain how tens of thousands of people have managed to make a living while making a few dollars per hour.

The mainland is much more expensive. Insurance is cheaper on Saipan, eating out is cheaper on Saipan, food is cheaper if it comes from Asia (the American food is more expensive), going to the movies is cheaper on Saipan, alcohol is cheaper on Saipan, and so on for example after example after example.

Yes, Captain Crunch and gasoline are more expensive, but not a single person on the island commutes! Consumption and overall spending is much, much lower than in the USA.

Anonymous said...

In the mainland you can have hd channels for free and don't need cable vs. $40mo. CNMI, internet is $20mo. for a 150Mbps connection vs. $100mo. in CNMI. Cell phones are up to $400 cheaper and plans are 50% less. Gas is $3/gal vs. $.4.20 Having airconditioner on all day will cost $150. vs. $400-500 mo., Your loan rates are 50% less in mainland and cars cost 5-6K less for a new car. Groceries and and consumer products such as electronics are 50-60% less. For comparable rentals, I think the rents are not that much different unless you live in a NY, DC, SFO, LA or CHI. Rent a 4 bedroom house with an enclosed garage and you are looking at ~2k in the mainland or CNMI. Buying a 2000 sq. ft house can be half as much in the mainland as the CNMI. If I saw bars on windows in the mainland, or an unpaved road, I would find a new neighborhood.

It is not a myth that the CNMI is more expensive than the mainland. The big difference between the CNMI and the mainland is that in the mainland there are much more opportunities to spend money, and therefore people are still living paycheck to paycheck.

Anonymous said...

Too many factors to consider in expenses. A small downtrodden town outside of Detroit has cheap rent. A town or city with high employment has high rent.

Contract workers will need an minimum of 10k to relocate to the US. Not sure what welfare system will be set up to assist them or educate them on the the complexities of living outside a sheltered life.

I wouldn't be surprised if hundreds of homeless American refugees find their way to the footsteps of Greg's office (or Wendy's front door!) in DC pleading for money and food. This is not far fetched. You see it everyday in the Capitol. Being poor in Saipan is WAY easier than being poor in the United States.

It's fair to say that the long term guest workers have been treated like children. Unable to make decisions for themselves or plan ahead for the world that awaits them.

Anonymous said...

Those writing about how much cheaper the US is than the CNMI are probably 40 year olds who've never paid rent, still get an allowance from their mother and sponge off their wife. Get a life already.

Anonymous said...

5:40 Food stamps and other federal aid
sharing barracks and housing, fishing, growing vegetables and fruit

the teacher said...

Our finest and brightest HS grads move to the mainland unlikely to return. Oddly, most mainlanders here left that hectic lifestyle for the solace of living in a relaxing paradise. CWs moving to the there will not likely adapt well unless they have family for a transition buffer.

New residents to the US will likely live far from work because industrial/commercial centers are pricey. That means alot of driving so get used to fast food burgers. And you need a car that can pass real inspections to be licensed and insurance (up to 1500. a yr for new drives). Many states have sales tax, state income tax, city tax in the city you work and the one you reside in, and laws limit the number of people and adults in an apartment (ei a 3rd child may require a 3rd bedroom). And if you acquire property expect state tax, county property tax, city assessments, and don't forget Uncle Sam's cut in the form of federal income tax or self employment tax.

All things considered, the grass may not be greener on the other side.

The Saipan Blogger said...

And clothes! I've spent more on work clothes in the last 6 months than I spent in the last 6 years on Saipan. Many of my cousins who have moved back to Saipan in the last year moved because the USA was so expensive. Many Chamorros don't pay rent because the government gave them land for free and they built a small house out of cinder blocks.

Those of you saying Saipan is so much more expensive are probably not living island lifestyles.

Anonymous said...

"If Saipan is so much more expensive than the mainland, then please explain how tens of thousands of people have managed to make a living while making a few dollars per hour."

Because they live in communal situations.

"eating out is cheaper on Saipan"

This is a blatant untruth.

Anonymous said...

Angelo is right, the clothes are so much cheaper in the CNMI. Imitation polo shirts and t-shirts are a couple of dollars cheaper than the real shirts in the U.S.

I would agree that living island lifestyles is cheaper than the mainland lifestyle. A beater car, no aircon, eating rice and fish that your relative caught, staying with relative for free or in 300 sq. ft. apt for $250 mo. with gas canister range is not very expensive.

If you compare the island lifestyle to a mainland lifestyle with a 2 story house, new car, new clothes, and going out to pricey nightclubs every weekend, Angelo does have a point.

Anonymous said...

Average US people aren't living eight to a "house". The "house" being made of tin and wood. Average US people aren't driving four to a car held together with ducktape, or riding with ten others in the back of a truck with their lunches and tools in old paint containers. Pay is higher and stuff is for the most part much cheaper in the US.

Anonymous said...

People assume most Filipino contract workers are or will become RNs. If you read some responses to criticism regarding jobs in the US, you'll see the same 'there are plenty of nursing jobs'. In reality there are only a handful of CW RNs who graduated.

Competition is fierce among skilled workers in the US. A fifty year old carpenter who works for Sablan Construction will unlikely get any work in the US as a carpenter. The standards are simply too high. There is also a 17% unemployment in the construction trade. The CNMI is filled with CW accountants, engineers and welders. These jobs and experience are not compatible with their counterparts United States. They simply cannot compete.

Anonymous said...

There are Filipino accountants or accounting assistants all over the US. Every single hospital in the US has Filipino nurses or nursing assistants. An engineer could easily work as a starter employee at a firm. Welding is a varied occupation that runs from the basic to the highly technical. There are some talented welders here and they wouldn't have a problem getting a job. These guys are the workforce of the planet, snagging jobs throughout the US and the world.

Anonymous said...

I am sure all that all these judges and prejudices in this blog are all racist, who are they to say the capabilities of one worker; maybe they think that every Filipino worker here is the same level of ability like them.. work with them and see the difference.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 11:46

You said: Competition is fierce among skilled workers in the US. A fifty year old carpenter who works for Sablan Construction will unlikely get any work in the US as a carpenter. The standards are simply too high. There is also a 17% unemployment in the construction trade. The CNMI is filled with CW accountants, engineers and welders. These jobs and experience are not compatible with their counterparts United States. They simply cannot compete.

You are so wrong. Where do you live? Many of the construction jobs in Florida are filled by Mexicans and immigrants, day worker (including the homeless who line up for work each day) and others who have learned their trade on the job. I know because we bought a house that needed renovations. The roofers were immigrants, the tilers were immigrants, the plumbers were high school graduates working under a master plumber, the construction workers who tore down one side of our house and rebuilt it were all Mexicans working under an American contractor, the guys who painted our house were an Indian and a US citizen, the guys who renovated my master bathroom were a Mexican and American team, the guys who put in new windows were from Mexico and US, the man who does our sprinkler system is Cuban. Oh yes, a carpenter or construction worker from the CNMI will easily land a job here and be appreciated for their work ethic and skills.

You are right that the unemployment rate for construction workers is high right now, but it will pick up. A lot of the foreclosed houses were trashed and people are buying them for next to nothing with plans to renovate them. There are construction jobs for public projects and work funded by stimulus money.

As for the Filipino nurses, physical therapists and other medical personnel, they are coveted. Florida Hospital East is called "The Filipino Hospital" because they have so many Filipino nurses, x-ray techs and therapists there. People schedule lab work, x-rays and other procedures there because they are so "kind and nice." George Washington University Hospital in Washington DC has an huge percentage of Filipino medical personnel. Our dentist is from the Philippines.

There are many skilled accountants, welders and engineers in the states who came here from other countries. I know many of them personally and they represent multiple nationalities. Their skills are compatible with those who were trained in the U.S. Their work ethic is superior.

Generally, in the US mainland workers are hired not for their age, race or nationality (which is illegal), but for their skills, attitude and willingness to work hard, do a good job, and continue to learn new skills.

Wendy said...

Teacher (Ron) Happy New Year!

People don't need a car to live in the states if they live in a city with good public transportation. Most major cities have buses, subways or both. Many other places have organized commuter car pools. I know many people without cars.

You are right. Taxes are higher in the states. Don't forget that US taxpayers also carry the federal funding for the US territories that don't contribute federal income tax. The failure of the CNMI political system and poor infrastructure and public services reflect the fact that no or low taxes or incoming revenue can result in disaster. Florida has no state income tax. We have low taxes. Regardless, salaries are so much higher in the states than in the CNMI that the taxes are not a burden. A teacher in the states averages over $50,000 with those working over 20 or more years earning $75,000 or more. Ditto for other occupations, which all pay more than comparable ones in the CNMI.

As for housing, some apartment complexes are begging for residents and advertise "first two months free." They will take 6 people to an apartment just to have the rent. Most people who share housing, share single family houses without restrictions. The rent is not a lot considering salaries are so much higher and most employees offer benefits including health insurance.

In the US, a person chooses their lifestyle whether fast-paced or laid back. It depends on where one lives, their occupation and attitude. Key West is known for it's slow-paced laid-back feel.

I think that most guest workers would do very well here!

Anonymous said...

Of course they will do well there. They already do. There are all kinds of Filipinos who've successfully relocated to the States straight from the PI. In general, they are amazingly successful. They aren't jobless, homeless and filling jails. They have good jobs and good lives.

Anonymous said...

Most wages in the US are based on the (type that in then follow the form and state look around the nation and Guam for the specific jobs)Any military project that may come to Tinian and Saipan will have to follow those wages for the specific job classifications. (as did the Fed IBB transmitter site on Tinian from years ago)This will apply to ALL regardless of nationality.

Anonymous said...

Remember something in regards to the Phil. education system. High school kids graduate at 10th grade and then then many go on to "College" for four years.
So in essence they only have two years of college when they graduate.
To get any kind of decent job, entry level in the Phil. at a mall, office etc. you have to have college. (4 yrs) under 25, good looking and single.
Professional technical jobs, with experience you have to be under 35yrs old.
The 4 yr. degree will not fly in the US as a 4 year college degree.
The nurse that are working as RNs have a degree and also have four years of study after they make up the last two years of High School.
Many Phil. Doctors are working in the US as nurses while going to school to complete their required schooling to get their medical degree in the US.
Same goes with many other professionals, there is a need to get further education to qualify for the US License.
The Phil. has been starting to extend the school years to come in compliance with all the other countries that have 12 yrs of basic education.
This is a 5 yr. phase in plan. (but most likely will take more than ten years.
Especially when the teachers do not even show for classes 50% of time during the present school the public schools. Very bad.

Anonymous said...

BTW, prices in the Phil. are not cheap either.
With the peso strong against the US dollar, Gasoline is now $4.41 per gal. (3.8 liter)
Diesel $3.18 gal.(3.8 ltr)
Chicken (whole)$1.42 lb
Cut Chicken parts up from there.
Beef average over $10lb
Pork $1.91 per lb
Talapia (farm raised)$1.16 lb
Tuna (small)$1.58 lb
Rice now (cheapest) $0.36 lb (up)

Power is average $0.44(US) per KW. (after all of the "add on" base rate is $0.19 then all of the 20+ little "add on" adds up).
Housing retal is cheap,$60-$100 a month.
Land average price, in a subdivision, $46.00(US) per sq. meter.
Land in province can be had for around $2.32 per sq. meter.
A nice house can be built for around $20k(US)

A used $500 dollar car in Saipan or Guam will cost around $3k(US)in Phil.
New car cost average $35k(US)
The average wage in the construction side for experienced worker is around $10(US) a day. $5 (US) a day for a helper.

Doctor visit (clinic) $5.81-$11.62 a visit.
Emergency room initial visit, ($11.62) plus doctor fee, medication, other supplies etc. (pay in the front)
If you have no money and you go to the hospital,they will let you die on the floor in the ER.
Medication is average about three times + more expensive than in Saipan.

Now, the CW make much more per hour here in Saipan than in the Phil. and, most cases pay about the same price or for goods.(except for hospital fees)

To send $500 (US)Western Union to Saipan it cost $42.00