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  • By Pacific island Times News Staff

Energy panel OKs U.S. Workforce Act

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Workforce Act, which has been reported by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is now awaiting passage by the full Senate.

Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan said the bicameral, bipartisan working group that drafted the original bill, along with representatives of federal agencies and the Commonwealth government and input from additional congressional committees, worked intensively revising the Workforce Act to make sure it does what it is intended to do and can win passage in Congress.

“All the key provisions from the Act as introduced remain,” said Sablan, who introduced the bill along with Sen. Lisa Murkowski in January.

The bill proposes that the transition program continues for another 10 years, with additional 8,001 CW permits for 2019, lifting the cap to 13,000.

“Local workers are protected from unfair competition by cheap foreign labor,” Sablan said. “Local businesses will not be undercut by bad actors who use up hundreds of CW permits.”

The bill, if passed into law, would allow eligible CW workers— those “who have worked lawfully and contributed to community over the years” — to obtain a renewable, three-year permit.

“We had a good bill when we introduced the Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act seven weeks ago. We have an even better bill now,” Sablan said. “But there is still much work to do in the Senate and then in the House. And nothing is for certain.”

The CW program was originally set to expire in 2014 before Congress allowed a five-year extension which was to end 2019.

“We have moved out a measure we have both been working on to address worker issues in the CNMI,” Murkowski said at the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s markup session on Thursday last week.

“I have no hesitation in saying we would not be where we are, except for Chairman Murkowski. She understands the importance of this legislation to the future of the Marianas and she has made it her own.


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