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Nov 20, 2007

My Boo! My Boo!

Tan Holdings recently held its 35th Anniversary presentation featuring Filipino celebrity Martin Nievera where 10,000 Filipinos and other fans of the singer gathered one Sunday night.

Brad Ruszala was behind the voice over for the concert. It was time to acknowledge the dignitaries watching the show. He acknowledged government officials and when he acknowledged the presence of the CNMI Governor, the crowd "booed" him not that loud but it was loud enough to be heard by many.

Then the audience started murmurs about a general strike. The crowd then said that when the strike happens, it should have the same number of people.


lil_hammerhead said...

I've heard several people say.. "they can't strike, it will violate their contract and they can be fired". I think Felipe Atalig voiced this opinion in one of the papers today.

This sentiment is exactly why non-resident workers need to have a status that allows them to "participate" in the same employee-employer relationship that every other working class US citizen and permanent resident has.

We can strike, and we might fired for not showing up to work.. but we can continue to picket and work to negotiate better terms, or at the very least let the company know that unfair treatment won't be quietly ignored. We can also form a union and negotiate with employers. We aren't going to be fired, put on a plane, and simply replaced by new non-res workers brought into the same bad situation, if we complain about working conditions.

Exactly the backward, slavemaster mentality that should have us insisting that better labor and/or immigration situations for non-res workers.

But then this is coming from a guy who brags about paying his "certified" Electrical engineers 5 or 6 bucks an hour. Yippeee!

rev said...

oh well....

O. Calimbas said...

i would guess that failure to show up to work might be cause for termination. what if it's only one day, though, and the employee calls in sick? what if the employee is important for the business? what if all the employees are important for the business?

as far as strikes being illegal, maybe someone can point to the local criminal statute for me. federal law has all sorts of restrictions that usually come up when you're dealing with essential services. but i think some successful strikes have violated those restrictions. does the federal law apply here? i've never checked.

a strike is a tool of last resort. it's a message saying that we can no longer be compliant. it's supposed to disrupt daily affairs. it's a wake-up call. it should offend others.

on the other side, it's a risk. you risk getting fired. you risk going to jail (whether justified or not). if the injustice is severe enough, a person will take those risks. if the injustice is an epidemic, then a good portion of the society will take that risk together.

are a significant majority of non-resident workers ready to take this stance? the strength of the strike is solidarity, no? i'm not sensing a mobilization at this point. mostly murmurings.

Armchair Lawyer said...

Almost all federal law applies here. See Covenant §§ 502-03, reprinted in 48 U.S.C. § 1801 note.

O. Calimbas said...

dear armchair lawyer -

"almost" is the key part of your statement. there's plenty that doesn't reach these shores (for better or worse). just last week, the CNMI supreme court ruled that a federal protection for debtors doesn't apply here. the effect of the court's decision: even if you earn the minimum wage here, which is below federal poverty guidelines, you may still be ordered to pay back your consumer debt. this ruling will compete with a right all debtors have: the ability to keep what is needed for basic needs.

i've posted more on this at the following: http://mlsc-marianas.blogspot.com/2007/11/supreme-court-decides-against-debtors.html

sorry to sidetrack there, middleroad folks.

rev said...

no problem agent "o"


does that mean "o" that Americans are then not fully protected by the laws here since "almost" hampers your claim?

lil_hammerhead said...

The covenant spells out what federal and local laws apply here. And they apply to everyone who is here, American or otherwise.

James said...

Actually, employers should be careful before they decide to take any action against a worker participating in such a strike. The activity may be considered "protected concerted activity" under the National Labor Relations Act.

Bruce A. Bateman said...

Of course workers should be allowed to strike, quit, move on to another employer or whatever else they want to do that doesn't infringe the rights of others. Hey boss, blow it out your ass, I don't like it here and I don't like the color paint you used on the walls.

So what? So Go.

Likewise employers should be allowed to fire, hire, praise, raise or just blow a worker out for whatever reason they want. Hey you, I don't like your personality or your looks or your mother in law's poodle color.

SO what? So go.

That would be free and reasonanble interaction between adults.

Somehow, governments always want to insert themselves into the equation reducing the freedom to act by both sides of this activity. They do so to have control and to skim some off the top from the efforts of both parties. Problem is, forcing both sides only reduces overall productivity which means their cut is actually smaller than it could be. That's the nature of the beast though. It won't be changing here or anywhere else a government can bring a gun to bear.

rev said...

i guess when you do fire your workers you'll have your workers hold placards saying "Boycott Porky's!" and PP is leading the pack...


Pilgrim said...

Strike for what? The workers came here for a specific period of time and for a specific rate of pay. If they don't receive what their contract says they should receive, they have ample legal resources.

Again, strike for what? Citizenship? Residency? Sorry but this doesn't cut it.

Some of you paint the picture that the majority of contract workers are treated like slaves. This simply is not the case. Take away the garment industry (oh.. sorry.. they are about gone already) and you remove 90% of the abuse, which was obscene and illegal. What remains?

Well I suggest you survey the workers and get their opinion. I would venture to say that most would say that they are perfectly happy with their rate of pay, contract compliance, etc. They would say that their employers have treated them fairly and honestly and that would be the norm.

Strike for what? Please answer this? They have the right to go home. They have the right to have their contracts complied with. Aside from that, strike for what?

Anonymous said...

Why is probably for them to decide, isn't it John Wayne?

lil_hammerhead said...

Employers SHOULD NOT be allowed to hire or fire employees for whatever reason they want. What an idiotic statement that is. "I won't hire you because you're black", "Give me a blowjob or I won't hire you", "I'm firing you because you wrote a letter to the editor and I'm in disagreement", "I'm firing you because you are trying to start a union". Nonsense. This is why we have laws that govern hiring and firing and entities like the EEOC.

If governments didn't "insert" themselves into the affairs of business.. business would still be utilizing slaves or child labor!

Armchair Lawyer said...

Omar, your prior post was misleading. From your own blog, the federal law does apply in the CNMI:

"In reaching its decision, the court made a difference between a garnishment and an “order in aid of judgment,” which is the typical CNMI court order that requires a debtor to regularly surrender money to the creditor as each paycheck is received. As the court argues, a garnishment is when you take money from a third party who owes the debtor, such as the debtor’s employer. Technically then, taking money directly from the debtor is not a garnishment. Since the federal law governs garnishments, it has no bearing on our orders in aid of judgment."

That is a far different decision than you saying that a "federal law does not apply in the CNMI." This assertion has been bandied about far too frequently, with reckless abandon.

The federal law applies fully. It was simply not applicable to the facts of the case. It is also possible that the CNMI misapplied the facts to the law, in which case you might presumably have remedies in federal court with these or other clients in similar circumstances.

But it is simply wrong to assert that "federal law does not apply" here. Such sweeping generalizations give rise to wholesale public misunderstandings about the role of law in the Commonwealth and about federal-CNMI relations.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

Employers have the right to get rid of a worker for no reason...they only get into trouble when they have a reason that is racist, sexist, based on religion.

Political affiliation is usually not protected.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

The contracts I have signed on Saipan have been included clauses that said both parties could end the contract at any time. No questions.

In my lifetime I've quit several jobs and I've been fired twice. But I'm an American citizen.

The right to look for another job is not something that overseas workers have. They used to have it in the Marianas, but starting in January, if you lose your job, you go home.

O. Calimbas said...

In response to armchair lawyer:

The court never ruled whether the federal law on garnishment restrictions geographically reaches the CNMI, because it didn't need to. The court specifically noted this in its decision. The reason is that , if there is no CNMI law that provides for garnishments, then the federal law restricting garnishments has no effect in the CNMI. It's another way of blocking the federal law from reaching here.

The decision was not limited to the facts. It was a ruling that dealt with CNMI statutes governing the execution of court judgments. Because these statutes evade federal law on garnishments, as the court ruled, debtors cannot avail themselves of those federal protections. Yes, it's a sweeping generalization, but an accurate one.

And debtors lose out because of this decision.

N.B. Okay, I should add one clarification. CNMI law provides for one instance when you can garnish a person's income. That's when you're dealing with enforcing a child support or spousal support obligation. And that CNMI law (P.L. 14-34) expressly incorporates the federal law restricting garnishments. But I'm not counting that, because a consumer debt is completely different from a family support obligation.

O. Calimbas said...

I think that non-resident worker contracts require "cause" for terminating the relationship. They can't just yell 'take this job and shove it.' You'll need a valid reason, which usually means that the other party breached the contract in some fashion, like not paying the employee, or not showing up to work.

In contrast, for a vast majority of employees in the States, they are employed "at will," which means the employee can get fired or decide to quit for any reason.

But, as plenty mention above, the only limitation on that is the reason can't violate your civil rights.

And yes, armchair attorney, a non-US National can file a charges with the EEOC for Title VII violations, among others.

Armchair Lawyer said...

Good! I think people will find that a great deal more federal law applies in the CNMI than not.

Thank you, Omar, for your cogent and detailed explanation of the recent CNMI Supreme Court decision. So rather than saying that federal garnishment law doesn't apply here, it would be more accurate to say that federal garnishment law modifies or limits local garnishment law, but we don't have one, for the most part.

Debtor protection sounds like something the 16th Legislature should get to work on.

While the non-existence of a local law is not tecnically "fact-based," still, it is not that the federal law "does not apply" here, but that the action being regulated (garnishment) does not exist here, except for the child support exception you have noted.

The reason it is important to be precise in these matters is that the late Special Judge Larry Lee Hillblom had the viewpoint that the CNMI was almost like a freely associated state with respect to the federal government. These contentions have been thoroughly debunked by Ninth Circuit precedent, but are still appealingly advocated and espoused by persuasive lawyers such as Jed Horey.

Unfortunately, many non-lawyers still believe this "Freely Associated State" status to be the state of the law.

Anonymous said...

Do you think the administration has the right to put fear into the hearts of contract workers that if they strike they will be fired and sent home? What kind of a fascist regime is running the show on Saipan? Is this the CNMI Government Gestapo? Contract workers wouldn't strike for citizenship. They would strike in protest of PL 15-108! I hate fear tactics. This is exactly why I wanted to leave the government. I refuse to place my lips on someone's arse.

Ed Propst

O. Calimbas said...

Armchair attorney - In fact, the EEOC visited the CNMI recently to get a better feel of how they can better serve the people here. Besides educating the business-side of the community, Micronesian Legal Services suggested presentations and Q&As with the other side, whether it be with Tao Tao Tano, Dekada, the Chinese associations, etc. Hopefully, the EEOC will be able to pursue this, and we'll have employees, whether foreign or not, become more informed of their rights, and not just their employers. Then, it's up to them to exercise them. Sort of like whether they will mobilize to protest, be it a strike, picketing, boycott, etc.

Armchair Lawyer said...

Ed, I'm not sure it is "the Administration" putting fear into the hearts of would-be striking contract workers as much as it is employers who would jump at the chance to non-renew employees in advance of the end of their one-year contracts, thus cutting business losses for the time it takes to process a replacement, which could be a while if not needed immediately.

The Administration has yet to acknowledge that our economy still has not hit bottom.

Given the intensive employment recruiting in the European Union, Australia, and Canada, any guest worker with the long term goal to emigrate, rather than enjoy the cultural affinity during a "temporary" sojourn that is all anyone in the CNMI has ever been promised, would be well advised to pursue such alternative emmigration options while the U.S. dollar remains weak and those other currencies are nice and strong.

Those who "hang on" in the CNMI with bogus sponsorships and other quasi-legal or even legitimate jobs in the hope of hitting a U.S. green card jackpot are deluding themselves.

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