September 1, 2013
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!