Monday, February 25, 2008

191. Minimum Wage Hike-A Call for Public Hearings

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?


The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

I have heard that those JVAs are written to discourage a local from applying. The actual pay is often higher than the advertised rate. If they advertised the actual pay, then any local that was "qualified" could take that job. Most of the JVAs are written after a candidate for the job has already been selected. They only publish them because it is required by law.

Labor approves all JVAs, so if they are being printed advertising $3.05/hour, it is because Labor approved it, I think.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the anonymous, I had a senior moment, and can't remember my google password...yagh! I'm known as shewhowatches, because I read a lot, but don't say much.

Senator Pangelinan is one of the few legislators that really digs in and does the research before coming to a conclusion about an issue. She is not as visible in the press as some, but if you follow her writings, you may come to see, as I have, that she has been a good choice as a Senator. She doesn't always agree with the popular view, but whatever her stance, it comes from a detailed and careful study of the issue and its history.

lil_hammerhead said...

Sorry.. when gas is $4.05 a gallon, suggesting $3.55 an hour is a legitimate minimum wage is obscene. The criminals can spin it any way they want to.. it's wrong, it's inhumane and it's obscene.

Tamara said...

My understanding is that there are exemptions to the minimum wage of $3.55/hr and if you fall under one of those exemptions, you don't have to pay the federal minimum wage, just the local $3.05/hr.

Either way, it's still wrong. I make much more than minimum wage and I struggle to survive. It's heartbreaking to think of those who have to do the same on $3.05 or $3.55/hr...It's just plain sad!

Anonymous said...

Eventually the struggle against business here will be a fight for locals, not guest workers.

Our long befuddled legislators could have really stood for the local populace by requiring a 50%
local hire requirement...but the influence that the Chamber and HANMI have here on our lawmakers is absolute. The "chamber" travel squad just wants to delay the inevitable as a ploy to stall decency.

Angelo- That process has always been a scam.

PNGed twice

Saipan Writer said...

I don't view raising the minimum wage as a struggle against business. I think that those business who view this wage hike as anti-business are short-sighted and perhaps greedy. Paying fair and decent wages is not against any real interest, an interest that deserves recognition.

Saipan Writer said...

And sorry to the anon whose comment didn't publish. Feel free to send it again and I'll publish it. (I'm not sure how it disappeared into cyber-space. I thought I'd clicked on publish, but it didn't show up on the blog.)