Tuesday August 7, 2007
Letters to the Editor
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Inflammatory quotes, wrong conclusions about labor reform bill
The Saipan Tribune recently gave front-page space to inflammatory quotes from a labor organizer about HB 15-38, the labor reform bill that passed the House. It is evident that Ms. Wendy Doromal, the labor organizer who provided the inflammatory quotes, never read the bill. Her conclusions are wrong and have no support whatsoever in the provisions of the bill that passed the House.
Exit provisions continue past practice. The Commonwealth had an exit provision covering all foreign workers that was allowed to expire. The three-year exit was never enforced, and the provision was allowed to expire although it was clear that this would lead to calls for green cards from foreign workers. For Ms. Doromal's edification, there is nothing strange, inhumane, or immoral about an exit provision. In fact, the United States has a similar exit provision. For example, even foreign doctors who have trained in the U.S. for 10 years, married, had children, and completed their education, are required to leave for one year before they can be readmitted to continue working. The U.S. requirement of a one-year absence has been in effect for decades. The Commonwealth softened this requirement to six months.
Planned travel does not adversely affect children. It is just inflammatory to suggest that a six-month leave adversely affects the children of guest workers. Military families move from place to place as often as once a year. Workers in U.S. companies who are transferred overseas take their children out of school and pay tuition in a foreign country. Foreign workers here in the Commonwealth support children in the Philippines. The important factor is not the move, but time to prepare for the move. The bill provides three years to make the necessary arrangements.
Workers depend on free education. Ms. Doromal suggests that foreign workers in the Commonwealth depend on the free education offered their children by the Commonwealth. It is certainly true that free education is a substantial benefit, and perhaps one that the Commonwealth should reconsider. Children of foreign workers pay tuition in many places in the U.S., whether they are U.S. citizens or not. School districts in the U.S. make individual choices about the fees that they charge and the basis on which fees are charged. Perhaps we should look at those precedents.
Replacements with local workers. We in the Legislature have an obligation to provide job opportunities for our citizens. Foreign workers are a supplement to our labor force. Jobs for them should not be protected at the expense of job opportunities for our local citizens. The periodic exit provision will cause employers, in some instances, to try out a local citizen for a job opening. It is true that if the local citizen is qualified and works out, the employer will not re-hire the foreign worker.
Help for the economy. Your article quoted a lawyer who represents foreign workers to the effect that the bill “has nothing whatsoever to help the economy.” That lawyer either hasn't read the bill or doesn't know anything about the Commonwealth's economy. For example, the bill softens the impact of the moratorium on businesses so that local businesses that have opportunities to expand can readily find workers. For another, the bill provides better bonding of employers for their obligations to foreign workers so that this burden does not come to rest on the taxpayers. For another example, the bill provides improved education of foreign workers and airport screening to prevent exploitation. For another example, some of the most common labor paperwork will be moved to the Internet for easier, cheaper access by businesses. For another example, each foreign worker will be covered by medical insurance making the payment of CHC's bills much more certain. I could go on at some length about the economic benefits that will result from this bill.
Support from the business community. The Chamber of Commerce supports passage of the labor reform bill. They have urged some changes, as have many other people, but they do not oppose the bill as a whole. This bill has been handled responsibly by the Legislature. We had a task force that worked for over a year to forge practical compromises. We held public hearings. We had educational sessions for the legislators. After the bill passed the House, the Senate leadership has allowed a month for additional comments and proposals for change. The labor bill has to balance the interests of citizens, businesses, and foreign workers. It does that. The labor reform bill is an excellent piece of legislation.
Rep. Jacinta M. Kaipat
Chair, JGO Committee
15th Commonwealth Legislature
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