Richard Pierce is leaving his executive director post at the Saipan Chamber of Commerce but not without a few choice words for Chamber members and a broadside to politicians who he said continue to meddle with the business sector’s affairs, especially on immigration.
“Unless there is greater care in implementing the federal immigration system in the CNMI, and this is no different than the implementation of federal minimum wage rates in the CNMI in that it was/is a purely political decision, the business community will continue to be subject to the politics of it all. So we get political and have to respond,” he said in his message in the Chamber’s monthly newsletter.
Pierce said the CNMI government should persuade the Office of Insular Affairs to commission a new study about the labor requirements of the islands.
“With the vast resources at the hands of the federal government at the U.S. Labor Department and the [Government Accountability Office]. Our elected CNMI leaders should get the Interior Department to commission a study to determine the future CNMI employment needs, whether there is a local population base to support future growth in our economy, how much foreign labor we will need, and then adjust the implementation based upon those findings during the transition. If you believe that’s what the federal government is doing now, leave the room.”
Commissioning a new local labor force study and implementing its recommendations would be a complete departure from what happened in the most recent GAO findings about the islands’ labor pool, specifically at it pertains to its minimum wage.
“I realize that Congress essentially ignored the findings of GAO and an Interior-funded economic impact study during the initial application of federal wage laws. That is why we have empty factory buildings, lost 25,000 jobs, and $80 million in revenue. It does not have to be that way with immigration implementation,” Pierce said.
This time he hopes politicians would stay clear of the report, which he said would lead to an inevitable conclusion—that mainland immigration reform is not a one-size, fits-all fix.
“I guarantee, if the politicians stay out of the way of those preparing the commissioned report, it will state the obvious. The CNMI does not perfectly fit the mainland employment mold, hence a new CNMI employment visa. To continue to accept the politically motivated and implemented federal immigration system will continue to hinder business and economic activity. The positive would be our politicians might learn what we already know: how an inadequate labor pool adversely affects business. And best of all, they could do what government does best: spend taxpayer dollars.”
Pierce said he is happy with the way government and the business sector seem to be working together in getting more of the local workforce hired.
“Lately, I have never seen a more concerted effort by government and the private sector to do not only what needs to be done to prepare a local workforce for the workplace, but also what any responsible business does for its shareholders— hiring those that are qualified and available at the best cost to businesses. I believe this needs to be said, at least in the interests of our Chamber membership. If someone still believes it is more affordable to hire qualified and available foreign national employees, let alone someone that has to travel to the CNMI, through the stranglehold of the USCIS, as opposed to any qualified and available U.S. local workers, then not only does there exist the implication employers are unlawful, and/or there’s a lack of enforcement of federal and local laws, that person does not understand simple economic realities, or has an ax to grind.”
He, however, reiterated his stand that the less political meddling, the better it is for businesses to thrive.
“I disdain politicians who believe I am wrong to make a profit by keeping my labor costs at a minimum, and worst of all, I disdain politicians who believe they can dictate what I am legally entitled to do. As long as I follow laws and pay my taxes, stay out of my way. In my opinion, our elected leaders need to spend less time trying to fit our business employment needs into their mold, and more time working with the federal government in creating a CNMI visa similar to the CW-1 within the current USCIS employment visa system that acknowledges the fact that the CNMI has a greater need for foreign national workers than California.
“In the mainland, these are the H-2 temporary visas, where the CNMI employers would have little access in acquiring. I have no idea what professors in economics are teaching our college students these days, but I know what they are not. My 35 years in the Commonwealth has been the best case study in economics vs. politics that any college could ever offer. It’s too bad our elected leaders haven’t been paying attention.”