15 Jan 2018
- Text & imagery by Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa – [email protected] – Variety News Staff
TINIAN — THE JC Café, a restaurant that has been serving the community here for 27 years, will lose 11 of its long-time nonresident workers. These include a cook, kitchen helpers, an accountant and the general manager herself, Lot Bunao.
She met with members of the Northern Marianas Business Alliance Corporation and Department of Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente last week to inform them of the restaurant’s predicament.
Bunao, who has been working in the CNMI for the past 27 years, said a drastic reduction in the workforce will affect everyone.
“They will have to lay off U.S. citizens also. The largest business on Tinian, the Tinian Dynasty, closed down and 500 employees were laid off. That’s an ongoing disaster, and it is going to get worse if nothing is done. The [CW] quota should be based on the business needs of the CNMI,” she said.
Bunao said they are hiring U.S. citizens and permanent residents. But she said residents looking for full-time work rarely show up for interviews, “and we have never had one stay for more than a year.”
She said many residents referred by CNMI Labor don’t want to work or are not interested when they learn that the job opening is on Tinian.
“They won’t work as night waitresses which are needed the most. Most of the residents we have employed now are part-time high school students, and some are taking online classes and will only work short periods of time. Other applicants that we hire don’t stay for long, and we lose money because we have to pay the food handler’s fee which is a requirement for them to serve food to customers…. Although we want to provide [residents] with employment they will be losing their jobs along with the rest of us. The JC Café has been providing jobs and serving the island of Tinian for 27 years, but we cannot operate without a cook.”
She said the CW needs of each of the three major islands — Rota, Saipan and Tinian — should be considered separately, and long-time guest workers should be prioritized and not new CW applicants.
In an interview, Bunao said aside from 11 CWs, the JC Café has six students who are part-time workers and two U.S. citizen employees: a waitress and a cashier.
She said they hired residents for the cook and waitress positions but they did not stay long.
Bunao said they have informed the office of U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan about the denials of their petitions and have requested that he assist them in asking U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for reconsideration.
She said they submitted their petitions six months earlier but they were rejected on Dec. 28, 2017.
Susan M. Perez, the resident director of the Department of Commerce on Tinian, said other small businesses on island are also affected by the CW issue.
“We have a parlor, cleaning services and a small restaurant, but their applications for CWs are still pending — meaning, they have not received a response yet so they are still hopeful. Also they have backup workers, local employees, and they need only a few workers. So the major impact will be on the JC Café because they will lose staff from top to bottom and that includes the cook who is at the heart of the business. If you lose the cook then it’s really going to be hard to move forward.”
Perez added, “But this issue is a USCIS issue, and there is nothing we can do about it in the CNMI. All we can do is hope that this problem will be fixed immediately at the national level.”
Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/101493-tinian-s-most-famous-restaurant-hit-by-cw-cap