CW Reality and Fiction

September 1, 2013

Governor Inos has asked USCIS to reduce the cap on CW workers by "only" 6% next year, according to the Saipan Tribune. He is quoted as saying that the U.S. worker labor pool cannot now provide the manpower needed to fill all the jobs in the private sector.

Get real. Be honest. They never can or will provide the manpower that the foreign workers have provided for decades as long as the CNMI federal minimum wage is kept low and working conditions are deplorable.

Inos talked about stepping up training of the residents to fill jobs not filled by nonresident workers. All the "training" in the world will not get resident workers to take jobs in the private sector under the current conditions.

Where are these U.S. workers willing to take a job for $5.55? Last week across the U.S. thousands of poorly paid workers poured out from fast food restaurants to the streets to demand a wage of $15.00 an hour. They picketed, and spoke to the media about a fair and living wage. They talked about how they had to drop out of school, can't afford daycare and other realities that people who have money in their pockets and probably never worked for minimum wage do not understand. These workers are fed up of being paid $8.00 an hour.  So pray tell, what U.S. worker will work for $5.55?

To make matters worse, the governor, the CNMI delegate and their loyal posse  –the Saipan Chamber of Commerce and the Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands (you know the people with money and campaign contributions jingling in their fat pockets) – are not only asking the U.S. Congress to delay the scheduled increase in the pathetic CNMI federal minimum wage, but they are pushing for a five-year extension of the CNMI-only Guest Worker Program.

We all know that the CNMI economy has picked up and can support an increase. The business community has been bragging for a year about the increase in tourism and how the CNMI needs more hotel rooms to support that increase. A delay in the minimum wage is wanted to keep the money with the employers who are used to huge profits at the expense of the voiceless, under-paid nonresident workers who hold the vast majority of the private sector jobs.

Of course they know the reality – if the legal, nonresident workers all left in 2014, as P.L. 110-22 provides, the economy would crash, the tourist industry would come to an abrupt halt, and small and large businesses in the CNMI would close their doors. The Commonwealth Utilities would be unable to function and the hospital could not accept patients. But they prefer to promote the fictional version –the one where the CNMI Government needs more time to properly train all those U.S. workers who really want the jobs, those private sector jobs that only the nonresident workers will fill.

There is no need to extend the problematic and flawed federal CNMI guest worker program. If the U.S. Congress followed the recommendations of the 2010 DOI report and granted permanent residency to all of the legal nonresidents who have worked and lived in the CNMI for 5 or more years, then the workforce would be stabilized. Until that time expect no serious investors and no changes that will attract residents to take private sector jobs.

Please stop disrespecting the loyal, nonresident workers with ridiculous fictional claims that more time is needed to train a local workforce when you know that no one wants their jobs that they have held for decades. Treat them as the vital, loyal members of the community that they are instead of talking about pushing them out. The nonresident workers have served the CNMI amidst the barbs and attacks for years and decades. They are indispensable members of the community, regardless of the fact that the elected leaders support the perpetuation of a disenfranchised underclass as a way to collect votes. Respect them, recognize their skills and talents, and applaud their decades of contributions. Stop disrespecting the nonresidents with conversations about jobs for residents when you know that they pay and conditions are so horrible that not enough resident want them. Stop talking about them as disposable commodities. Stop talking about them and start including them in your conversations. Show some respect!

Governor Inos talks about the need for more time to train the local residents to fill jobs that nonresidents currently hold. The CNMI Government failed miserably for the first five years in training residents for jobs and failed in convincing them to take jobs. What will change now? Take five years, take ten years to "train" residents, and still no U.S. citizen will work for $5.55 or even $7.50. What is the incentive? The reality is that U. S. citizens do not want to work for wages that place them far below the poverty level and will not improve the quality of their lives. Why work for pathetic wages when you can collect food stamps and have health costs paid by Uncle Sam and still go to the beach or kick back every day?

Furthermore, who wants to work under employers whose practice is to routinely delay wages, pay no overtime, ask their employees to pay for their own permit fees, and break other contractual agreements? Many employers have and continue to hold the "either take this sucky job and all of the unfair indignities or I'll fire you and you'll return to your country where you have no job" over the heads of the nonresident workers. They have used this tactic for decades. But what threat do these employers have to hold over the heads of the resident workers? None. The government should train the employers to follow laws and treat the workers with dignity at the same time that they attempt to train residents for jobs and they may have a better chance of making a transition.

If the nonresident workers leave in 2014, the CNMI is sunk. Good luck Tinian Dynasty, the labor abusing, wage theft hotel and casino of the world, finding enough resident workers to fill jobs. Good luck CHC, which delayed wages for nonresident nurses and broke their housing contract, in convincing licensed nurses to work for your pathetic wages when licensed nurses can work in the U.S. and earn 4 times more.  Good luck all you other businesses who routinely practice wage theft and treat your workers like slaves and with disrespect.

The wages paid to accountants, nurses, and private school teachers and other professionals in the CNMI are not even 1/4 of what workers in the same professions earn in the U.S. Yet the government wants another prevailing wage survey that will just prove that the system is broken and fixed to fill the pockets of greedy employers and stick it to private sector workers. It is a system that promotes CW job classifications for jobs that would be H-1 jobs in the U.S. mainland. It is a system that promotes a society of the have and have nots, an attitude that private sector jobs are for disposable nonresidents, that those who hold private sector jobs can be abused even as their abusers face no consequences. And the CNMI Government thinks residents will line up for private sector jobs? Get real!


Angelo Villagomez said...

Hasn't it been about five years since the law fully implementing the covenant was signed by George W. Bush? All those workers who were in the CNMI on that day would today be eligible not only for greencards, but citizenship if they were on American soil in Hawaii, Guam, or the mainland. Enough is enough. Foreign workers may not have been promised citizenship, but they sure as hell have earned it.

Anonymous said...

What teaches CNMI when U.S PL-110-229 (signed by U.S president George W Bush and Corrupted Fitial administration in CNMI was successful to scrap immigration provisions for non-resident workers in 2008) offered a 5 years transition period expiring on December 31, 2014? Mr. Inos and his team are required to do a research to reach a possible solution as U.S Department of Labor is asking 13 questions to CNMI governor? The solutions remain in the hands of CNMI and U.S government. What CNMI failed to accomplish, may not earn by extending flawed CW program for another 5, 10, 15 or 20 years? What did the CNMI Human resources department do since non-resident workers were invited in CNMI to join the workforce to grow its economy? According to Governor Inos, “An additional $5 M revenue was generated by the last fiscal year, will be used to fund broken CNMI retirement funds”. At the same time CNMI gangs are fighting in Washington DC to keep the CNMI minimum wages down when the prices for living ingredients in CNMI are increasing every day. Every person in CNMI deserves to be respected, treated equally and fairly. Green cards for legal non-resident workers in CNMI are the best solutions to grow CNMI economy gradually and permanently. How is Mr. Kilili doing now-a-days? To CNMI lawmakers and governors, “Stop worrying about votes to get re-elected”, “Get real to solve the problems before it is too late”.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the logic of saying that granting green cards will stabilize the CNMI economy. The problem is the salary for skilled and experienced workers. If workers can earn 2-4 times the salary they are currently receiving in the mainland, and are granted green cards, they will leave. CHC couldn't keep a nurse back in 2005-2007 when U.S. visas were available, but it we grant them green cards today they will decide to stay? Seems unlikely. And why do we keep forgetting that U.S. visas for skilled workers already exist, as do temporary (up to 9 months) visas for unskilled workers. Those visas include wages based on experience, education and job description, so businesses aren't interested in them.

If the CW visa ended today, or if green cards were granted and skilled workers left for Guam and the mainland, businesses would simply shift to existing federal work visas which offer salaries that would make it an incentive to hire U.S. part time students, U.S. returning college students and U.S. retirees.

Training U.S. workers to take over CW jobs at CW wages is a joke. Businesses should train workers at minimum wage or offer a salary increase if they want an experienced employee. Currently businesses want an experienced employee for the minimum wage. If the CNMI trains workers for plumbing, electrical, medical coding and similar occupations, those U.S. workers won't accept minimum wage salaries, but rather go to Guam or the mainland and earn a fair salary with their new education.

Anonymous said...

12000 long-term alien workers granted CW status in CNMI and are not eligible to switch from CW status to another U.S visa categories under U.S PL-110-229 administered by USCIS, Department of Homeland Security because there was a promissory affidavit submitted by CNMI employers to USCIS for each CW application. So by this CW workers are prevented to get into another U.S visa job categories.
You may ask this question to an immigration attorney in CNMI to know the answer, and the answer is “Negative”. CNMI employers lied to USCIS for most of the CW workers to reduce cost in hiring. The process will be known in USCIS history as permanent. After December 31, 2014 CW workers will be required to get a U.S employment visa from overseas U.S embassies to get employed in CNMI. Some valid CW workers got stuck in their home countries due to non-issuance of U.S visa for unknown reasons during year 2011-2013 as U.S Department of States is not required to explain when a U.S visa is denied.
If CW program is extended, does not make sense in the long run when a CNMI bill is pending U.S congress to halt CNMI minimum wages. CNMI government administration encourages U.S workers to take over CW jobs and at the CW minimum wage. Instead of having a CW job, U.S workers are happier to rely on federal handouts to live well. CNMI lawmakers have to be truthful and honest to take necessary actions to stop this nonsense game that is not only affecting CW workers but also U.S workers in CNMI.

Anonymous said...

Granting permanent residency immediately to all non residents who have been in the cnmi for decades is the right thing to do for President Obama.

Anonymous said...

How can a U.S. worker be trained to take over a skilled job, when after they are trained, they will make the same or less than an employee working at McDonalds? It doesn't matter if the worker at McDonalds earns $11 an hour, they should still earn higher than the McDonald's starting employee based on their specialized training. If workers can earn the same amount with zero training, why put in the time for any education at all?

The CNMI businesses know that wages based on education and experience are coming soon, either through the CW or by the use of existing federal work visas, so what they are trying to do is make a prevailing wage study based on existing CW salaries which is a sham and I hope no one falls for it.

Anonymous said...

The United States is about to go to war in the Middle East. CWs have been officially removed from the stove altogether.

Anonymous said...

Angelo Villagomez said...
Hasn't it been about five years since the law fully implementing the covenant was signed by George W. Bush?

It has been more than five years since May 8, 2008 but the expression “fully implementing the Covenant” was blatant pro-federalization propaganda.

It will take at least another half century to fully implement the first sentence of Covenant Section 701.

The realities of geography cannot be wished away by magical thinking, either economically, socially, demographically, educationally, or environmentally.

Anonymous said...

One can argue that unless the tap of contract workers is finally cut off, and businesses are forced to employ local workers who vote, there will never be pressure to increase wages and improve conditions?

Wendy Doromal said...

1:13 One can argue that selfishness and greed result in karmic consequences.

Anonymous said...

There will always be a need for some contract workers and workers from the mainland. Does anyone ever wonder why the public schools send recruiters to Iowa, Oklahoma, and similar places, while CHC and CUC do little to no outside recruiting at all?

Once the tap is cut off for employing skilled contract workers for minimum wage and no pathway to permanent residency or citizenship (CW visa), private businesses, and even the CNMI government will step up their mainland recruiting efforts, and local U.S. workers have a fair shot at competing against foreign workers for a private and even public sector job.

Brian REED said...

If the cap is cut off. It will become mandatory that the minimum wages are increased and the abominable working conditions are improved.Was checking online for an immigration law firm Canada when i stumbled upon this blog.

captain said...

BTW, according to "Construction Pro News" which I and others subscribe to that provides a broad spectrum of industry news and info, 74% of US construction Companies claim that there is a shortage of "qualified" Construction workers across the US Mainland.

I know first hand from my contacts at Caterpillar that their dealers are having a hard time to fill skilled mechanic slots with US workers.
Caterpillar and others have joined in online sites to find qualifed workers at various locations around the US.

Now, on another side, the unions have stated that they have many unemployed workers sitting on the bench and attribute the claim on unavailable workers due to companies wanting to obtain and get "illegal" workers so they can keep the wages down.

Could the industry claim be due to the "right to work laws" and so many of the companies getting away from Unions? Or not?

At any rate here, in the NMI, with the Govt. attempting to all of a sudden "train" local workers to obtain the knowledge and skills within a few weeks and replace any of the current and future workforce for minimum wages is ludicrous.

Anonymous said...

The US jb market added 175K workers last month to bring the unemployment rate down to 7.3%.
These employment figures most likely will have a big affect on any immigration reform.

If people in Washington (and the NMI) ever figure out that the minimum wage in the CNMI has a direct affect, on the number of unemployed, Wash. will deny the request to hold off on the current increase, that will also kill any chance of the delay being retroactive later on.

With the wage increase implemented then 'maybe' there may be a gradual trend for more participants in the many free job training programs available on Island, especially from our younger folks and first time employees

Anonymous said...

@anon 9:03

If a business wants to hire U.S. workers at minimum wage for a unskilled job they will have plenty of applicants today in the CNMI. A year ago, a local clinic advertised a janitor and received 85 U.S. applicants. They interviewed all of them and hired their CW worker (who they were going to hire all along) who had 6 years experience and never missed a day of work. Why would someone need a training program provided by the government in order to make minimum wage at a private sector job. A minimum wage job shouldn't require any prior training at all. I can't understand why people don't get that.

Anonymous said...

US citizens, other than licensed docters, nurses, lawyers, and teachers, are laughed at by employers in the CNMI who seldom hire them. The CNMI administration is an extension of the Fitial regime so what would anyone expect and the US does nothing about it.