November 8, 2011
|Tinian Dynasty photo by W. L. Doromal ©2008|
Unheard No More! will be featuring employer-thieves weekly. These are unscrupulous employers who blatantly and publicly steal wages from their foreign worker employees. They may have stolen wages a couple years ago, or they may be stealing them right now. The one thing featured employer-thieves have in common is that they have stolen wages, the employees have filed complaints with the CNMI DOL, the U.S. Department of Labor, or both, and the victims still have not received their back wages.
Both the CNMI and the U.S. Governments have failed these employees. They have turned a blind eye to the rampant problem that has caused undue hardship and financial devastation for thousands of foreign workers and their families. Some agencies who received complaints from foreign workers have sat on them for months and even years, giving the workers excuses for their inaction.
Today I received an email saying that foreign workers of the Tinian Dynasty have not received their pay for 9 pay periods (again). This coming pay period will make it 10 pay periods. Their last paycheck was for the pay period covering June 18, 2011 to July 1, 2011.
I wonder if the managers of this establishment would like to try to survive without being paid for ten pay periods. What is more disgusting is that it is only the foreign workers who do not receive their pay in a timely manner. The resident or "local" workers reportedly do receive their pay in full and on time. This is not only racist, but it speaks to the overall problem with the guest worker program. Any guest worker program, including the proposed CNMI-only program that supports a constantly moving revolving door system, is flawed and subjects the foreign workers to abuses. When employers and corrupt officials know that the workers are disposable or replaceable they are less apt to treat them properly. Such foreign workers will be subject to low wages, poor working conditions, few benefits and wage theft.
Employers are well aware that in the CNMI wage theft is not just the most common crime, but it is also a crime that is not prosecuted. The $6.1 million in unpaid judgments collected from victims of wage theft testifies to that. Since 2008 when those judgments were collected, thousands of other foreign workers have fallen victim to wage theft, including nonpayment of overtime wages and illegal deductions. Employers know that as long as the revolving door system is in place, workers will continue to be ill-treated, discarded if they complain and traded in for a new one so the cycle continues. If the government viewed foreign workers as future citizens, this problem would end.
Workers told me that at the Tinian Dynasty the casino business is "back to normal" now. They stated that the average casino income is between 1 million to 3 million a month, which is more than enough to pay all the back wages for all employees and to pay all employees on time.
More disturbing is the fact that the Tinian Dynasty even recruited many employees for its manpower pool. The workers estimate that there are 500 employees, more or less, who are employed at this establishment. They also reported that they have heard that the management has started filing CW applications.
The workers asked me to find out if USCIS can approve Tinian Dynasty's applications without first settling their back wages. Apparently, they can. I spoke to a person at USCIS and was informed that the back taxes and back pay issue do not impact a determination in classifying a business as "legitimate" or issuing U.S. visas for foreign workers.
Clearly, any guest worker program must have coordination between the U.S. DOL, USCIS and other agencies to ensure protection of foreign workers from rogue employers. All businesses that are allowed to hire foreign workers should be following all local and federal laws, including labor laws. They should have ethical and legal operations. No business should be considered "legitimate" if it owes current or former employees back wages and/or if it owes any local or U.S. back taxes. Why place foreign workers in a company that has a record for abusing them?
As I previously reported, the Tinian Dynasty not only is notorious for not paying their foreign workers, but also has failed to pay their taxes. In January 2011 it was reported that the hotel and casino owed over $317,000 in federal taxes. A lien was placed on the business. In July 2011 it was reported that Tinian Dynasty Hotel owed over $30 million in back taxes to the CNMI government. Who polices these businesses? Are such businesses allowed to renew business licenses?