The Casino Builders: Saipan

For several years, as many as 1000 undocumented workers from China have been on the island of Saipan working to build a massive casino. This project, run by the Hong Kong based company, Imperial Pacific International, has been marred with controversy. Rumors of political backdoor dealings, money laundering, and the “next Macau” have been circulating since long before construction ever began.  

And yet, the project went ahead. Throngs of workers paid large recruitment fees to obtain jobs with the Chinese companies contracted to build the Saipan casino—often taking high-interest loans or mortgaging their home to do so. But these individuals were never provided written contracts or work visas. Instead, the recruiters coached them to enter Saipan as “tourists”. The contractors employed them, but under illegal and unsafe conditions far worse than what they were promised in China.  

That is…until a worker fell to his death in March of 2017, prompting the FBI to intervene and causing the massive construction labor force to crumble. Most of the undocumented laborers returned to China immediately, fearing arrest or detainment, despite never being paid even the federally-mandated minimum wage. Other workers who remained in Saipan began organizing protests in hopes of being fairly compensated by their employers or the casino before returning home.

The U.S. Department of Labor has been able to reach settlements on behalf of two groups of protesting workers, who then returned to home. Another group of 40 workers still on Saipan has emerged, and for several months has been fervently holding tight to the hope that they and their hundreds of coworkers back in China can be “made whole”….

To support the workers’ struggle, follow @GoldMantisLabor on Twitter and visit the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions’ website for instructions on emailing Imperial Pacific to make the workers whole.