Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Building A Community of Workers

This blog post is a response to a letter in today's Tribune, with the nice (but inapt) headline "Impartial Hiring."

The "logic" (and I use that word loosely) of Jose Hinaro Lim, the letter-writer, would have us tied to cheap, foreign labor forever because that provides greater profits for private businesses. Hidden beneath the very sound idea of hiring based on qualifications is the message that we want our cheap, foreign labor force and should be entitled to keep it, and that federal laws to the contrary are bad. Hidden beneath the rhetoric is the concept that profit is the only consideration that counts.

But greater profits for private businesses is not the sole consideration in building a community; it is not even a preference. What we should be aiming for is a community that is self-supporting. We want a community where equal opportunity exists for everyone. We need a community with wholesome enterprise and a political scheme that respects the civil rights of all, preserves the environment, and provides equal access to justice.

Employers should be careful before embracing the suggestions of Jose Hinaro Lim--to do so could violate our laws and cause employers to face civil and criminal sanctions. In choosing an employee, the first consideration is competence--not MAXIMUM or BEST competence, but identifying all who meet the minimum criteria that are legally needed for the job. (The argument that employers would be forced to hire incompetent employees is nonsense. There is no law that ever requires that.)

Employers do not get to pad the requirements for the job. You can't require two years experience for unskilled work. You can't tailor the requirements to meet just the one candidate you really want to hire. This is what the concepts of job categories and prevailing wages address.

If there are competent lawfully resident workers--regardless of race, ethnicity, or citizenship--these are the people who get the job. It doesn't matter that you may prefer a foreign worker because he's cheaper, or has a better education or more experience. If employers can hire a resident worker who is competent to do the job, then that is what the law requires.

And that makes sense. We want to build the competencies of our own community. We want the income earned to be spent here as much as possible, and not be forwarded out to a foreign country. We want to be able to lure back our youth, when they get educated, with jobs and opportunities here.

So NO, Mr. Lim, it is NOT good for our community to have a policy that employers should be able to hire the best foreign worker for the cheapest price, regardless of the availability of resident workers. That's NOT "impartial." That's a practice that abuses both the local worker and the foreign worker by depressing wages here, and forcing resident people to leave their homes, and takes advantage of poor people who have left their foreign homes and have no political power. That's not "impartial"--it's destructive of our community and perpetrates a system that is not good for workers at all.


Anonymous said...

I've been eager to hear your comment about the statement made by Mr. Woodruff about the "accounting" being conducted by the Ombudsman. I checked other blogs, you were not posting any comments. I am one of your fan. Please comment here or on our blogs where that issue is posted. Thank you and God bless you!

Saipan Writer said...

I think Steve Woodruff has made some valid points.

1. There is no law that mandates that aliens comply with the Ombudsman's registration effort. (This means that if they fail to do so, they won't be in trouble for violating any law.)

2. There is a possible concern, for those who do not have legal status, in revealing themselves to federal authorities. (There is no indication that the Ombudsman's Office will turn over names; and there has been a claim in the newspapers that the information may be confidential. I don't know of any basis for saying the information is confidential. I think the USCIS/EOIR could get the information and, if they wanted to, use it to identify people subject to removal. I don't believe the registration is a scheme to find people to deport, though.)

I also think Steve did not emphasize that there is a possible benefit to be gained by registration. (If the U.S. Congress does decide to grant any status, it may be important to have registered to gain that benefit. The U.S. Congress has been known before to grant amnesty; to expand rights; to grant relief to those who have had some harm or difficulty.)

I think also what is missing is that generally no one should rely on advice given in the newspapers, without full understanding and consideration of their own situation. Advice often depends on specific facts. People with questions should seek advice from a lawyer who can explore all of the details of the person's situation and see how best to guide them, advise them.


Anonymous said...

Only an idiot would trust Pam Brown

Anonymous said...

Thank you Madam!

Saipan Writer said...

I trust Pam Brown more than I trust

* Jacinta Kaipat
* Governor Fitial
* any CNMI labor official
* even Steve Woodruff

and a whole host of other people.

So I disagree with the anon. comment that Pam is not trustworthy.

Saipan Writer said...

Anon 3:31--you're welcome.

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Captain said...

If these alien workers go to a "work visa system" their wages will have to represent a US workers wage of the same job classification under the Area wage determination (Guam, Davis Bacon)This is what maybe this umbrella blocked for two years.
We shall see what happens later when the Feds approve what ever they will put in place for the workers.
This will make it cheaper to hire local, if available.

The Saipan Blogger said...

God, I'm turning into a Republican living out here.

Forget about workers, how come nobody (other than Walt Goodridge) talks about creating small businesses so that you can be self employed?

Saipan Writer said...


You're so far from being a Republican it's laughable!

There's a bit of that discussed in the comment I pulled out and posted under the post title "Where is Our Great Wall?" Recognizing how we once had our own mom & pop stores and enterprises, but have given up to "foreign investors."

We need more than mom & pop stores, though. We need a self-supporting community--and that includes the business ventures, industries, institutions that make that happen.

We could use some creative thinking on this score. But for the visitor industry:
eco-tours; souvenirs --lots more local stuff; island entertainment; more sports tournaments and competitions.

(We could also adopt some policies in use in Hawaii--friendly police and tourist-friendly policies on parking, etc. Library programs that invite tourists to participate--like short-term temporary library cards; lots of brochures and distributable materials on the history of the islands, etc.) So someone could be writing and publishing some of this material. And have a lot more writing--novels, plays, non-fiction.

A stronger and more involved industry in film, theatre, music, recording, dance, art. We have disparate elements now--but these businesses could flourish.

Language and education--we see some of this, but again, we could have a lot more focus and better presentation of it all.

But none of this need requires that we forget about the workers. Because these businesses and industries will need workers, too.

pacificnurse said...

I somehow missed the "impartial hiring" editorial in the Saipan Tribune, so thanks for sharing it. I actually think that most employers think the way Jose Lim does. With the exception of Willie Brundidge however, I never hear workers complaining.

The CNMI Department of Labor allows employers to specifically advertise jobs to their current contract employees. You will find 8years experience for a pre-school teacher at $4.75/hr, a bachelor's degree in nursing required for a nurse aide at $5.00/hr, and 10 years experience for a floral designer making $4.55/hr., and that is just in the last week of the Department of Labor job postings.

The CNMI goverment is actually the largest employer of non-residents and they are exempt from even considering locals before non-residents.

Many employers are actually stuck in a bind. The Palms recently had a judgment ordered against them for firing non-residents and hiring local workers. If a local worker is on a contract for 2 years, they cannot even consider a CW visa or a H-visa, because if there is any enforcement of hiring U.S. workers first, and the actually find one, they will not be able to hire the U.S. worker because if they do, they cannot fire the non-resident worker without paying penalties for terminating their contract early.

I actually think the CW permit will make it cheaper to hire off-island. The originial CW regs did not mention anything about prevailing wages. Without the CNMI department of labor regulations, employers can deduct all CW-USCIS fees from the non-resident employees, stop providing health care benifits, stop providing worker's comp, stop paying for health screens, and even make employees pay for attorney's fees for processing the CW visa itself.

After the umbrella permit period ends, skilled local workers will have an advantage in hiring since employers will have to pay prevailing wages for the H-visa, and there is a huge risk that non-residents will use the H-visa to leave Saipan and take a job legally in Hawaii or California. Local unskilled workers will likely have to wait until the end of the transition period for any benifit.

Saipan Writer said...

pacificnurse--you have so much misinformation in your comment I want to delete it! I'll let it stay and get back to it, to point out all the errors.

In the meantime--to any blog readers--please, do not believe all facts reported in the comments. Please investigate.

And if you're making comments, please try to figure out before you post, what the real facts are.

Jane said...

Pacific Nurse said:
Many employers are actually stuck in a bind. The Palms recently had a judgment ordered against them for firing non-residents and hiring local workers.

This is not an accurate description of what happened. You can read a better account at the Saipan Tribune.

The first worker was fired for not cleaning rooms adequately; he defended saying he couldn't get to all the rooms in the amount of time given and the elimination of overtime contributed to the problem. He'd worked for the Palms for 20 years. The administrative law judge held that the sanction was excessive and awarded damages.

But--the damages only went to the time period where the company contracted out the services to a private company.

The second employee's situation is closer to what Pacificnurse describes, but what is omitted in nurse's version is very significant. After 10 years of employment, the worker was hired/re-newed in September and fired the following January. The company claimed it had found a local for the job--but the judge found this was a pretext for the firing. The company then claimed the worker had stolen...probably what they believed and the real reason for the firing...but the judge said they didn't have enough evidence for their conclusion.

This legal analysis does not put local employers "in a bind."

The time to look for a resident for a job is before hiring or renewing a contract. If companies actually did this properly, there would be no disincentive or likely problem now to try to convert their foreign workers to CW or H worker status.

If instead they terminate foreign workers and hire residents, there may in fact be penalties, pursuant to the CONTRACT, for early termination of a foreign worker's employment. But this isn't a new problem related to federalization of immigration.

pacificnurse said...

Saipan Writer said...
pacificnurse--you have so much misinformation in your comment I want to delete it! I'll let it stay and get back to it, to point out all the errors.

First off, I want to say that I think that employers should hire local workers. I believe that employers are short-sighted at looking at the bottom line and not looking at the big picture when it comes to hiring. The capture rates of local employees is much higher than non-residents and local hiring will lead to more money being recycled throughout the community, and an overall increase in the economy. I agree with the article "Building a Community of Workers" and it should be something that should be a goal of the CNMI.

I do stand corrected that "legally" the CNMI must consider local workers before non-residents, however they are exempt from posting the vacant positions and mandatory interviews to qualified applicants that is required of private employers. If the Government isn't required to advertise or interview, I'm not sure how they "certify" no local workers are available.

Jane said...

Pacificnurse--I think your examples of what jobs are posted was an excellent point. I'm just worried that some of the other stuff may be wrong.

I haven't had time to check everything though. Too much other work to do.