Torres appointed Julia Victoria Benavente as secretary of Labor in mid-September 2017.
Several key management employees of DOL expressed their support for Benavente during the public hearing held by the Senate Committee on Executive Appointments and Governmental Investigations.
“On behalf of the staff and management of [DOL], we come before [the Senate] to speak with one voice,” said Gil M. San Nicolas, DOL director for labor enforcement and compliance. “In the very short time that [Benavente] has been appointed acting secretary of Labor, she has proven her leadership to all the staff and management and the department, inclusive of Rota and Tinian. Our message…is very simple: we ask that you appoint [Benavente] to be our next secretary of labor,” he said.
Benavente’s appointment also garnered the support of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, the Northern Marianas Business Alliance Corp., and the Governor’s Strategic Economic Development Council through Alex Sablan, who chairs several of these organizations.
“She has complete understanding of the issues related to creating jobs and putting U.S. citizens in the workplace first,” said Sablan.
Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan), who also supported Benavente, referred to her appointment as a “very sound and wise decision.”
“…It is important that we have leadership in our department that is in charge of overseeing [our workforce and labor needs]. The leadership of the Commonwealth [government] is focusing its energy on labor needs. My heart is comforted and consoled knowing that DOL has this wonderful opportunity to be led by a very capable, intellectual, and hardworking dedicated public servant,” he said.
Sen. Teresita Santos (R-Rota) wishes that if confirmed, Benavente will have an “initiative to address” the unemployment rate in the CNMI to “avoid an exodus of our people leaving the islands for the lack of work opportunities here.”
Santos applauded Benavente’s plans to “establish an alliance” with the Northern Marianas College, the Northern Marianas Technical Institute, the Public School System, the Latte Training Academy, and the private sector in building the CNMI workforce.
“[I wish that Benavente] would work closely with our Tinian and Rota counterparts to improve our labor departments and workforce in those senatorial districts,” she said.
According to committee chair Sen. Francisco Cruz (R-Tinian), both Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang, and Rep. John Paul Sablan (R-Saipan) have supported and testified for Benavente in written testimonies.
The committee will now come up with a standing committee report to present to the Senate body at their next session before Benavente is officially confirmed as labor secretary.