June 18, 2016
Facebook post of Ed Propst:
I am most certain that many will use the plight of the contract worker (CW) as a campaign tool this election season. That is to be expected. I know I've been told that by publicly supporting contract workers it will hurt me and may cost me getting re-elected. That is fine with me, because the truth is, losing an election pales in comparison to losing a home, and that is what we are seeing right now with the expected exodus of 1,300 longtime workers before the end of this year.
I am writing this right now with tears in my eyes, because I am devastated at the thought of someone as amazing as Mami Ikeda and other contributing members of our community leaving our islands for good. And "contributing members" is an understatement! I have witnessed the contributions of Mami and so many others who have given their heart and soul to our islands.
The notion that we must have all CW's depart our islands so that we can give all these 13,000 current jobs being filled by our guest workers to our people is something I often hear, and I understand the frustration of some of our people. But please, hear me out.
From an economic standpoint, even if we were to take every available one of our people currently on island to fill the slots of our contract workers, we still would not be able to fill every position. We have been told that there are 10,000 locals ready to fill the positions. The problem is, we currently have 12,999 current CW's, so even if that number were accurate, we would still be 2,999 people short for employment. Add to the fact that our economy is in an upswing and more jobs will open up? We are looking at adding another 1,000 to 2,000 jobs within the near future. So where will we find the additional employees to fill the 5,000 additional jobs if we were to have 10,000 of our people fill these jobs right now? Some of our people may finally return home from the mainland and elsewhere to work, but will we have 5,000 of them returning? How many of our people who have homes in the mainland right now will come back home to receive lower wages than what they are currently making in the United States? These are the questions that need to be answered. What about the skilled labor positions? Do we have enough of our people currently on island who can fill the needed skilled labor for carpenters, plumbers, accountants, welders, mechanics, nurses (50 percent of our nurses right now at CHCC are CW's by the way), chefs, and so forth?
From a humanitarian standpoint, we are seeing long term contract workers having to pack up and leave immediately. These are long term workers who have been living here not just for one or two years, but ten, twenty, and even thirty years. Many of them living on island have children who were born here, who went to school here with our children, who graduated here, and several of whom are currently serving in our military, defending our country and commonwealth. These long term community workers have given so much to all of us, from waiting and serving and cooking for us at the restaurants, to caring for our children and our elderly as caretakers and nannies, to building our homes, our roads, our infrastructure. While we use the term contract workers, we also use the term guest workers. But we can also call them our family, which is what they are to so many of us, as they break bread with us at our homes and we at their homes, and they have become our kumpaires and kumaires, our brothers and sisters.
There is no doubt that we must build local capacity and train our people to take on the jobs available right now. There is no doubt in my mind that we leaders of the Commonwealth must start investing in the Northern Marianas Trades Institute and other training academies and give them real money to properly train our people. But we must go beyond that. We must work on reliable and affordable transportation so that our people can be able to get to work and back, since there are so many who just cannot afford to buy cars right now. Sorry, but the illegal taxis just are not meeting the demand for transportation.
While we work on building local capacity, we must address the shortfall right now. Today. From an economic and humanitarian standpoint, our community workers are critical to these islands. And what is even more critical is that we understand that many of these contract workers who have lived here for decades have no home to go home to, because this is and has been their home for decades.
I know what I have said may not be politically popular and I am certain some will use what I have said in this post and other posts against me, but that is okay with me. My heart still belongs to the people of the CNMI and I have given 100% of myself while in office, but will do so even out of office. As a public servant, I have an obligation to be true to not just the people I serve, but to be true to myself. I am a public servant, one who serves EVERYONE, regardless of whether or not you are in my precinct, and regardless of whether you are a permanent resident or a guest worker. Love all, serve all.
May God bless our beloved Commonwealth and all of the good people living on our islands. I pray for a better future for all. One heart, one love. Good night.