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    Tuesday, July 17, 2018-8:51:36A.M.






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Editorials 2018-April-20

Of course there is no ‘plan B’

DO you have a  plan B for falling off a cliff? In the case of the NMI workforce crisis, the Murkowski bill is plan B. It was the federal government that imposed workforce restrictions on the NMI. And it was USCIS that drastically reduced the CW cap despite the findings of the GAO report and the introduction of NMI workforce legislation in the U.S. Congress.

All this talk about “planning” that could have been done “10 years ago”; offering higher wages and more training; or recruiting from other jurisdictions and the states fly in the face of actual experience. There are not enough U.S. qualified workers for certain jobs here or in the states. The states and Guam offer much higher wages and they, too, can’t find enough U.S. workers for those same jobs.

In a commentary posted on CNN’s website early this month, businessman Dennis E. Nixon wrote:

“As one of the largest employers in the border town of Laredo, Texas, I don’t need to read the newspapers to tell me our country has a labor shortage problem. I know it from the hundreds of jobs I have been trying to fill for years.

“Unfortunately, it’s not just me. Other employers are having a hard time finding the right candidates to fill vacancies at all skill and experience levels. And as if this weren’t bad enough, the U.S. Census Bureau just reported that for the first time in our country’s history, people over 65 will outnumber children by 2035.”

“We’re just short of people,” Shelly Mayer, executive director for Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin told the Huffington Post in an Oct. 2017 report. “Before Chuck Ripp’s farm started to grow, he and his brothers hired local high school students to help on the farm. But they never lasted. Now, 11 of the 12 non-family members who work there are Latino immigrants. ‘We cannot find the American person to come in and work full-time on a dairy,’ Ripp said….  ‘We’ve run ads in the papers, looking for milking technicians or people to help milk cows and things like that,’ he went on. ‘We don’t even get a bite. We don’t even get calls.’ ”

The Huffington Post also interviewed Brad Barham, a professor of agricultural economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He said immigrant labor “keeps the economy of rural Wisconsin humming; it is not replaceable by domestic labor — it’s not going to happen.”

They are talking about good-paying jobs in a nation with over 300 million people.

In a report last month, the AP asked economist Michael Clemens about the new American jobs that are being created. These positions include personal-care aides, food-service workers and home-health aides. Many of those jobs, Clemens said, “will either be done by immigrants or they will not be done at all.” Already, the AP stated, “foreign-born workers — about 17 percent of the overall workforce — account for 52 percent of America’s maids, 47 percent of roofers and 40 percent of construction laborers and laundry and dry-cleaning workers. Low-skilled immigrants harvest sweet potatoes and cucumbers in fields in North Carolina. They serve dementia patients in nursing homes. They vacuum offices. They are waiters, cooks and maids at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.”

The CNMI/U.S. is not even a unique case. Other prosperous nations also lack native workers for certain jobs. This is not “hard” to explain.  In countries where most people can go to college or have other career or lifestyle choices, there will be fewer folks for certain jobs: construction, farming, caregiving, hospitality or unskilled work.

As the GAO report has pointed out, 80 percent of CNMI hospitality and construction jobs — the backbone of the local economy — are filled with nonresident workers. There are not enough U.S. qualified workers  for those jobs. And why should they work here when there are more higher paying jobs elsewhere in the U.S.? The easy “answer” is to further raise the local wage rate (which will already reach the federal level this year). But by how much? To a level that will make doing business in a small, remote island financially unfeasible.

For some employers in the states, “plan B” is to hire undocumented immigrants. The U.S. has 11 million or 12 million of them. In the CNMI, with an indigenous population of over 15,000, scrapping the federal CW program is tantamount to pushing the local economy off the cliff.

Do the feds have a “plan B” for government retirees, employees, employers, students, patients and other U.S. citizens who live here?