Rep. George Miller revives Marianas bill

Rep. George Miller of Martinez, ranking Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee, has introduced legislation today that would impose U.S. labor and immigration laws on the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands.

Miller has spent years pushing unsuccessfully for the reform of working conditions on this group of islands in the Philippine Sea where news reports have uncovered sweat shops and worker exploitation.
But Miller said that former GOP leader Rep. Tom DeLay and convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff fended off such reforms for years.

Now that DeLay is leaving Congress Friday and Abramoff is headed to prison later this month, Miller and other lawmakers hope to revive interest in the plight of Marianas workers.

The bill’s fate is highly uncertain.

The legislation falls under the jurisdiction of the House Resources Committee and its chairman, Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy.

Miller has asked Pombo repeatedly to investigate Marianas conditions.

But Pombo, who has visited the Marianas on congressional business, has said such hearings would accomplish little except to provide members a chance to posture. Instead, he has referred to the matter to the Department of Justice.