A workforce nightmare looms


A recent letter by Walt Goodridge was a reminder that reinforced the warnings I issued last year about how locals were being eliminated in the tour guide certification process. Walt and I are not locals and our messages will more than likely fall on deaf ears because it is more often than not about who the messenger is in the CNMI than the importance of the actual message. However, the facts will still remain that locals are being eliminated to a large degree when it comes to the present and future workforce of the CNMI.

When I first revealed that locals were being eliminated, no one really believed me as nothing was done and the MVA went ahead with the certification of a group that did not have a single local. Now, the proof is in the pudding. Forcing membership in MVA—a government agency—is a possible violation of federal law governing the free enterprise system. Worse, it is at a cost of $530, which puts the opportunity for many locals to be tour guides out of reach as many locals are living paycheck-to-paycheck. I’m sure that many of the average locals who want to be tour guides do not have the money to even become a member. Furthermore, locals already have a vested interest in MVA, which operates using local funding, so why do locals even have to pay this fee? The fee should only be for CW’s and their employer will be responsible for their fee, which is what I believed happened anyway, given an entire group of CW’s for one company was certified. The Legislature needs to re-examine the facts Walt exposed:

1) Participation in an opt-in government agency should not be mandatory. Locals already have an interest in MVA.

2) Benefits do not constitute valid reason. It’s more about the tour company than the tour guide.

3) Membership does not prove my competence for the job. Locals already know more about the CNMI than CW’s

4) It dilutes my competitive advantage and threatens my livelihood. Locals can’t replace CW’s when a tour company won’t hire them

5) This is superfluous requirement—a design in the law to eliminate locals who can’t afford to pay the fee.

6) An alternate way to generate revenue perhaps? That is what the casino is for: new revenue.

7) Finally, “it’s the law” is not a valid reason for not addressing these concerns. Laws like this one are deemed illegal, which is probably why they are trashed and laws are even changed out of necessity as it is truly necessary and proper to make sure that locals are hired!

Ambrose M. Bennett
Kagman, Saipan

Contributing Author

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