US Senate Staffer: CNMI Labor Abuses Continue
By Gemma Q. Cassas
Marianas Variety, CNMI
Wednesday 18 January 2006
Saipan, CNMI - A US Senate staffer who visited Saipan last week, says that labor abuses, particularly of women from China and the Philippines, continue to occur despite the constant monitoring and dialogue between the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the US federal government.
Allen Stayman, former director of the US Office of Insular Affairs who now works for US Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, said they still have concerns about the labor situation in the CNMI.
Bingaman is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy and Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over the CNMI and other insular areas.
Stayman, US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs David Cohen, and US Sen. Pete V. Dominici's senior staff member Josh Johnson visited several work sites during their brief stay on island and looked into federally funded projects and programs such as the Federal-CNMI Labor, Immigration and Law Enforcement Initiative.
Stayman said the committee, which Dominici, R-NM, chairs, is interested in learning of Gov. Benigno R. Fitial's views and commitment to solving labor, immigration and law enforcement problems.
Among the labor problems that Stayman noted is that of Asian women recruited to purportedly work here as waitresses, but ending up as prostitutes instead.
"We visited workers at several work sites and I came away with several concerns. I learned that women continue to be brought to the CNMI by unscrupulous employers under the pretense of waitress and other non-sexual jobs, but who are then pressured into prostitution," said Stayman, who once compared the local labor and immigration department to organized crime. "There continue to be cases of failure to pay wages due, and of workers entering the CNMI on false papers which indicate they are certified to work for one employer, but then work for a different employer to avoid quotas," he added.
A number of cases pending in the US District Court involve sex trafficking of women from the Philippines and China.
Court papers filed last month showed that a restaurant operated by a Chinese couple was actually a brothel.
The victims who were recruited from Dalian province in China said they were forced to work as prostitutes although they were hired as waitresses and choreographers.
Stayman also noted that the CNMI labor department has a large backlog of labor cases "and apparently inadequate resources to investigate and adjudicate those cases."
The governor's press secretary, Charles P. Reyes Jr., did not return this reporter's calls.