12 Businesses Receive Honors for Hiring 45 U.S. Citizens

February 1, 2012

Assistant Secretary of the Department of Interior for Insular Affairs, Tony Babauta lauded 12 businesses in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) who recently hired U.S. citizens. For decades while the CNMI government maintained local control of their labor and immigration systems, they kept the minimum wage so low that no U.S. citizen would accept a job in the private sector. Currently, the minimum wage is at $5.05 hourly ensuring that a full-time worker earns wages well below the federal poverty level. Still, with government jobs scarce and no other choice, locals are now vying for private sector jobs.

It seems odd to honor companies that only hired between one and nine U.S. citizens each. All of the businesses were among the participants in the October 21, 2011 Job Expo sponsored by the CNMI Department of Commerce and paid for by funds from a DOI grant. Thirty employers attended the job fair to advertise numerous vacancies. The Hafa Adai Beach Hotel claimed to have passed out 300 applications at the event in an attempt to fill 48 vacancies. The hotel was honored for hiring 3 U.S. citizens. Media coverage reported that 900 U.S. citizens attended the job expo.

Maybe I missed something, but where is the huge accomplishment? The numbers represent such an insignificant amount that one would think it would be better not to highlight the fact that a federal grant (more federal taxpayer money) was used to sponsor a job hiring fair that resulted in a mere 45 local hires out of an estimated total 10,000 to 12,000 private sector jobs, or less than 1% of the total number of U. S. citizens attending the job expo.

Under the new federal rules employers had to advertise all jobs before hiring a foreign worker and were encouraged to hire a qualifying U.S. citizen. The job fairs that were sponsored by the CNMI department of Commerce and DOL were promoted by Delegate Sablan and other officials.

A few of the companies that were honored for “supporting the CNMI and federal government’s effort in securing jobs for locals” are also well known for their abusive treatment of the foreign workers, their outspoken anti-federalization stands, devoted support of keeping the CNMI minimum wage low and other anti-worker sentiments.

Among the honored businesses was the Saipan Hotel, which was recently in the news for a controversial EEOC lawsuit filed by a female performer. Not surprisingly, the Saipan jury (on which no foreign workers can sit although they make up a majority of the population) found the company not guilty. The EEOC will appeal the decision. The hotel was involved in previous EEOC complaints.

Other honorees included J.E.T. Holdings and YCO Corp. In 2007 J.E.T. Holdings president Juan S. Tenorio and YCO president Jess Yumul joined an anti-federalization rally to oppose raising the minimum wage. Hafa Adai Hotel, another honoree, is also known for sticking it to the foreign workers. Dozens of foreign workers filed labor cases and EEOC lawsuits against the hotel over the years and the NLRB also filed a lawsuit against the hotel.

I have to wonder, did the employers who were honored this week terminate foreign workers to hire the U.S. citizens or did they create new jobs that would also stimulate the economy? It is quite sad to think that a federal ceremony was held to applaud employers who may have devastated the lives of some people (terminated foreign workers) so other people (U.S. citizens) could have a job. Clap, clap, clap. Then again, those faceless foreign workers aren't thought of as people in the CNMI (or to many in the U.S.), but as disposable labor units so I am sure that the thought never crossed the minds of the organizers or participants. Clap, clap, clap. What would it matter that any terminated workers have families to support or may have worked in the CNMI for more years than some U.S. citizens are old? Clap, clap, clap.

See also these stories:
Still Confusing for Everyone
More locals in the private sector
CW Program: Detours From the Roadmap?
News for Foreign Workers
CNMI Department of Labor Supports Preempting Federal Law


Anonymous said...

These ceremonies to recognize nothing are typical of the NMI government. Look at the stupid monument being built with tax payer dollars. Look at the numerous resolutions to honor insignificant events or people who accomplished little.This was a ridiculous move and most surprising because this time it was the feds handing out awards and looking foolish. Made me cringe to read this. It's a sign that the cancer of mediocrity and foolishness is spreading.