I'd like to see a public hearing in the CNMI on whether to continue the minimum wage hike this May 2008.
American Samoa is conducting such hearings. See this Radio New Zealand item. And while we have some similarities to American Samoa (past reliance on an industry that is pulling out; and workers imported from elsewhere), our situation is not exactly the same. We are closer to Guam and Asia, perhaps with a bigger base for our second (now first) industry--tourism.
Of course, our Senate has already gone on record as opposing the wage hike and calling for a suspension of the small 50cent increase scheduled. Kudos to Senator Maria Pangelinan for being the lone voice of compassion and reason.
I think we need another minimum wage hike. With our current minimum at just $3.55 / hour, no one has a real incentive to go out and work.
I also wonder about the classified ads in the newspaper for jobs these days. Look at today's ads in the Tribune, for example. You'll see "1 carpenter...salary:$3.05/hour" and yardworker--$3.05 / hour; and commercial cleaner--$3.05/hour; and diesel mechanic--$3.05/hour; and janitor-$3.05/hour; and beautician-$3.05/hour; and cook--$3.05-3.25/hour--all from Philipppine goods Const. Inc. You'll also see auto mechanic-$3.05-$3.55/hour-A.C.C.S. Corporation dba Cartown.
How are these businesses offering these jobs at lower than our current minimum wage? We need the U.S. Department of Labor to come in and stop this, because obviously our own local labor department isn't. (And will probably certify these companies' employment of contract workers based on these advertisements.)
I'm also disgusted to see the usual array of skilled workers, all at minimum wage--graphic artist, mason, electrician, accountant. These are not typically minimum wage jobs in America. Just check on line any state and look at the classifieds in a local newspaper. I chose Ohio (since I grew up there eons ago). Graphic artist--like a page designer--listed as "entry level" pay, but with paid vacation, health benefits and a 401k plan! Construction workers--like maintenance worker doing carpentry, painting, etc.--$14/hour, plus paid vacation, medical benefits and a 401k plan. "Accountant"--translate this to a simple payroll clerk--$15.00 / hour.
Obviously there's a strong economic pull for our island workers to move to the states. We can't compete by offering equal pay as our mainland counterparts, but we certainly can raise our minimum wage, which in turn might help push up other wages on top of those. And thus we get closer to a decent, living wage.
With family and our beautiful environment, this could be enough to keep our local talent pool here, and lessen our reliance on foreign workers, make us more independent, and strengthen our economy from within.
Do we want this? Or do we want the same few businesses raking in profits for themselves by using cheap foreign labor, relying on people who are denied basic civil rights and a share in the economic pie? Do we want a community that values its local citizens as workers and pays them accordingly, or do we want to push our blue-collar working citizens out the door to Guam and the mainland U.S.?
Well, I know what I want. Thoughts, any one else?