Tuesday, February 12, 2008


"Big John" got me thinking...Why don't we have more of that going on here. What I mean is, the local people sharing thier talents and interacting with the tourists. Little John and his Carabao on the hill in Inarajan made such an impression on my kids and me for that matter.

Why don't we have local weavers who hang out in the Paseo D’ Marianas or other places frequented by tourists and weave fish, flowers, birds or coconut hats for the tourists? It only takes two blades of palm frond to weave a little fish and it brings so much joy to the tourists faces to watch the weaving and to get the fish when it's done. I don't know how to weave, but I have seen first hand someone weaving and handing out fish and flowers to tourists and they were full of "ohhh's and ahhh's" and smiles.

Why don't we have people with the talent to sing or play the Uke stop by for an hour or so and just sit around and play. I know that would attract tourists and make them happy. You could make a few dollars in tips too, i'm sure.

We have so many talented people on this island..young and old...If everyone could take an hour or two of their time each week and donate toward promoting tourism or improving the tourists visits here wouldn't that be totally awesome???

In Hawaii, there was a lady at the International Market Place who would put some local flowers together on a toothpick and then stick a bobby pin it and sell them for a few dollars. They were so beautiful and I'm sure the tourists here walking around the Paseo would be happy to pay a buck or two to put some fresh, fragrant local flowers in their hair.

I know there are a lot of people out there who are doing their part to promote our island and improve our tourism. All the divers who take the military guys out for dives, the locals who give free tours to some of our visitors, etc. But there are so many more of us and so many more things we could be doing, myself included, to improve our island and our tourism.

I cant sing, play uke or weave, but I have been seriously brain storming for ideas as to how I can do my little part...


On another totally different note, my stomach turned several times listening to a particular Tan Holding executive on the Harry Blalock show today speaking about stopping the next minimum wage increase set to take effect in May. I can't for the life of me begin to imagine how a person can survive on $3.55/hr or even $4.05/hr with the price of housing, electricity, food, etc. on this island. It's really sad..
And to hear someone who makes Bookoo bucks and lives in a million dollar mansion trying to stop a wage increase to $4.05/hr made me ill. I literally threw up a little in my mouth!!!


glend558 said...

Makes me sick too, but I can keep from tossing...TeeHe
It really is so sad.....

Jeff said...

Add me to the infirmary.

I heard some of that broadcast and I thought it would be better radio to have someone debate the issue with those two rather than that love in.

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

I didn't hear the interview.

I would like to see people get paid more money, but keep in mind that many of the foreign workers get free housing, electricity, transportation food, and medical care, while the American citizen workers doing the same work get none of those benefits.

Also, the cost of housing, insurance, and locally caught and grown food is much cheaper here than it is in the mainland.

This could get into a lengthy discussion and I don't really want to get into it.

I just want to point out what the voice of the people that live in my apartment think:

1. The minimum wage is currently too low to support a family in both the CNMI and the Mainland
2. In the CNMI, American citizen workers get fewer benefits than foreign workers
3. The minimum wage should be set to reflect the economic conditions of the Pacific, not those of the Mainland

G'ma said...

I agree with saipan blogger that "minimum wage should be set to reflect the economic conditions..." OF THE PLACE...NOT "the Pacific" and not "the Mainland" USA. In the Pacific, we have Guam, Tahiti and others that have higher wages and probably can afford it. On the other hand, we have some Micronesian islands that have lot lower wages than we do, and perhaps that's all their economy can afford. So, the wages should be set according to what each place can shoulder. U.S should not be telling us how much our minimum wage should be. On the other hand, we should be realistic and set wages which we can afford and which helps the wage earners live a somehow decent lifes, be they foreigners or Americans. Granted, foreign workers get more than American citizens now...thus, laws to bring equality and fairness to all employees should be ENFORCED and or amended to end the disparity of wages and benefits. You must remember that not only foreign workers are being paid the disgustingly low minimum wage here...there are American citizens (I know many) who are paid that disgusting wage but aren't getting the other benefits given to foreign workers (Why hasn't this been addressed?).
These employees have to pay the same high gas prices, outrageous utilities,etc.,etc. A U.S citizen getting this minimum wage CANNOT live a decent life, let alone provide for family members. Yes, I agree that WE should be the ones to set our own minimum wage...BUT have we?...or are we doing it in such a way that the wage-earners are treated half way decently??? It seems the only time we do anything about something that should have been done is when the U.S or someone else forces us to do it, or shoves it down our throats...WE DIDN'T DO WHAT WE SHOULD'VE DONE with the minimum wage, so it got shoved down out throats. Same case with the Immigration and Labor. WE DIDN'T DO WHAT WE SHOULD'VE DONE!!! Now, the Feds. are shoving that too down our throats (WHOSE FAULT IS THAT???), so we run around trying to enforce laws (which should've been done), and reacting by churning out amendments and new laws that create other problems. At least, the next wage increase will help minimum wage earners a bit. I agree that it shouldn't automatically jump every 6 months (even if we can't afford it) till it meets the U.S minimum wage, but it should be allowed to go to $5.00an hour after an honest and realistic assessment is made...NO! NOT BY THOSE WHO WILL DIRECTLY BENEFIT one way or another.
In the meantime, I feel (that's solely my opinion with no statistics to back me up) the wage arners should be allowed the next salary increase which I know will help with their daily lifes...be they foreign workers or American citizens.
Minimum wage earners deserve fair and equal basic benefits and treatment, regardless of where they are from. If the laws have to be enforced, amended or enacted, THEY SHOULD BE DONE...NOW!!!! In the meantime, let those poor guys get their next pay increase!!! It stimulates the economy!

lil_hammerhead said...

By the way Tamara.. I used a quote from your post in my blog. Thanks! (hope it was alright).

Tamara said...


I see where your coming from.

Not all contract workers get free housing, electricity, transportation and food. Only medical payments are mandated for contract workers. Most contract workers that I know of get deductions from their paychecks for housing and food.

In fact, when the last salary increase went into effect, labor allowed employers of contract workers a one time free amendment to the current contracts to deduct up to $100 for food and $100 for housing from the employee's salary. So in essence, the salary increase was zeroed out for most contract workers.

I fully agree that benefit packages should be fair for both Local hires and contract workers.

Wasn't the Fair Resident Worker Act suppose to address and correct that problem? Not sure what the status of that is..

I would just like to see a decent wage and fair and equal benefits for all...

PS : Whoa mom, you scared me with that comment...he he

lil_hammerhead said...

Took 10 years, yes 10 years before the minimum wage was forcibly increased. How long more were workers going to wait for a wage increase. The nonsense about HANMI willing and wanting to pay workers more, the times are just to tough.. is bullshit. If it was the truth.. they would've paid more a long time ago.

Times up. The expectations of what your "bottom-line" will read on next years report should be tossed out. Profits will be less, but workers will be a little happier. That sacrifice makes just sense to me.

Jeff said...

The minimum wage is obscene for everybody, not just contract workers. Brad is hung up on that issue, too. It puts U.S. citizens and contract workers at odds, like one side is causing the problem. They aren't. There are plenty of U.S. citizens working for meager wages as well. They tend to be the parents of my students. The local government is not just harming contract workers they clearly don't care about, but its own citizens as well.

me said...

Tamara is correct.

The law says that if an employee makes the minimum wage, the employer need not provide housing, meals, electricity or anything like that. All the employer covers is the cost of medical if they have no health insurance (and this is supposed to ensure that CHC is not left holding the bag if the employee leaves).

If the employer provides housing, they can deduct $100 per month and another $100 for meals. Cost of electricity/water/sewer is usually prorated by the number of employees sharing a barracks.

So employees who get free housing and meals and make $3.55 an hour, their take home pay, after the monthly $200 deduction and $25 for utilities, could arithmetically be $195 per pay period.

I agree with Saipan Blogger that there should be equal treatment of all workers but I thought that the law now requires this.

G'ma said...

:-) why'd I scare you, Sweetie? Too emotional? I guess at my age, I'm allowed to get that emotional, when I've witnessed so much bull shit and not enough action to make this place a better place for everyone. When I worked for the government I told a couple of governors that we didn't need to contract "consultants" to come up with comprehensive labor laws, the laws in the books were adequate but needed a few amendments to bring them up to date, however, ENFORCEMENT was what was lacking...Nope! No one listened! I still say, ENFORCEMENT in many areas is what's needed...and I mean a fair across the board ENFORCEMENT. Biba for next minimum wage!

Anonymous said...

Increased Minimum Wage in a labor intensive service industry where you cannot yield appropriate rates to cover costs equals "business closure"

A Restaurant in Saipan currently pays wait-staff and other employees min. wage ($3.55/hr) and sells their meals at an average of $6.00 per menu item. An increase in minimum wage to $7.25/hr. (given that the industry standard labor cost consumes 30% of income) would then require the restaurant to have to price their average menu item at $9.67.. maybe more given that all costs may rise due to min. wage effecting vendors also..

Are CNMI residents ready to pay over $9.00 for a Big Mac meal.. or if dining at Shirley's over $12.00 for the daily Special..

Although many will now be making higher wages, how many will then actually go out and pay for a $9.00 meal?

Some will ask, How come they can pay higher wages in restaurants in the U.S. Mainland? They can because there are enough people who are willing to pay $9.00 or more for a meal...
The below was extracted from Zagat's National Survey:
The majority of Seattle's diners (83%) continue to eat out as much as or more than they did two years ago, and they're doing so affordably. While the average cost of a meal has increased by 8 percent since the 2005 survey to ($27.68), today's average meal in Seattle is still well below the national average of $33.15. Only five U.S. cities that Zagat surveys, all of which are in the South, average less. However, the scales are tipped at the opposite end of the spectrum with cost averages at the city's 20 most expensive restaurants, where an average meal runs $72.06, just 42 cents above the national average ($71.64). Not surprisingly, 72% of surveyors report paying more for their meals than two years ago.

not lobbying against an increase in minimum wage, however, with all costs rising (especially CUC) and with the market size (population) decreasing, spending the time to analyze the impact of an increase in minimum wage is the smart thing to do.

Anonymous said...

Some more numbers from Zagat:

That doesn't mean that dining out is cheap however. The newly released 2007 Zagat Survey lists the average cost of a dinner in New York at $37.61 (Las Vegas was $38.38); San Francisco was close behind with $35.96.

While main courses seem to be holding the line, appetizers seem to be going up disproportionately (maybe that's the answer to why we have so many small-plates restaurants here).

At Boulevard, for example, the tuna tartare is $16.75; a simple organic baby beet salad with ricotta, toasted almonds and Champagne vinaigrette at Farallon is $15.

I remembered a few years ago when I balked at the $9 desserts, now that's commonplace. And the wine prices ... don't even get me started.

It's expensive to operate a restaurant and no one is getting rich. Most owners could make more working for someone else, but they are in the business because the love the hospitality business. But at $40 an entree, will customers love them?


so the next question will be.. are the types of tourists we are attracting to the CNMI willing to pay similar prices when we increase are wages to $7.25?

lil_hammerhead said...

Hey anonymous.. what restaurant do you eat at? Aren't too many left with $6.00 meals. Even McDonalds meals are $6.00 nowadays.

Restaurants whose normal fare was $6.00 - $8.00, have upped there prices to $9.00 - $12.00.

lil_hammerhead said...

"..spending time"? More time?


Anonymous said...

lil..go read the zagat poll.. not talking about $6 in Seattle...their talking about an ave. of $27... you ready to pay $27 every time you eat out.. maybe more given are small market on island..