Kilili wants ‘bad actors’ blocked from CW program


WASHINGTON, D.C.—Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) wants the Department of Homeland Security to make companies that violate employment laws ineligible to participate in the foreign worker program, more commonly known in the Commonwealth as the CW-1 program.

“Companies that do not pay their workers what they are owed, companies that ignore federal safety standards in the workplace, should not have the privilege of using the CW program,” Sablan said.

“We have too many legitimate businesses—and even public institutions like the hospital—that still need foreign workers and find it increasingly difficult to get CW permits.

“Legitimate local businesses should not have to compete with the ‘bad actors,’ who break the law.”

Sablan has already communicated his position to Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelley. And this week Sablan followed up by transmitting the citations and notifications of penalties just issued by the Occupation Safety and Health Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor against MCC International Saipan Ltd., Nanjing BeiLiDa New Materials System Engineering Co., and Gold Mantis Construction Decoration, Saipan LLC.

OSHA proposed penalties of $193,750 against the three casino construction companies for workplace safety violations.

OSHA investigation of a construction worker’s death on the casino site is still ongoing.

Both MCC and Gold Mantis have also run afoul of federal wage and hour law for not paying workers. And both companies have had to pay large settlements to workers for back wages.

“Federal regulations on the CW permit system are very clear,” Sablan said. “To be eligible to apply for a permit a business must comply with all federal—and Commonwealth—requirements relating to employment.

“This includes nondiscrimination, occupational safety, and minimum wage requirements.

“The CNMI government has already expressed its intention to collaborate with the U.S. Labor Department, cracking down on employers. Reporting employers who break Commonwealth employment laws and regulations to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is another way to show that the Marianas will not tolerate worker abuse, as would Marianas legislation blacklisting employers who flout the law.”

Sablan returned to Washington, D.C. on Monday for a four-week stretch of legislative activity in Congress. High on his agenda is work on a long-term plan to ensure that the Marianas economy has sufficient labor to continue to develop and that the number of U.S. workers relative to foreign workers keeps getting better.

“That is one more reason to clean out anyone who cannot follow the rules,” said Sablan. “My work in Washington, [D.C.] is made all the more difficult, when the daily news is filled with pictures of worker protests and reports of death and injury on the job.

“By showing that the Marianas has zero tolerance for companies that do not respect the law we increase our ability to craft a new labor policy that will help us keep our economy growing.” (PR)

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