The Guam Department of Labor sought to extend existing H-2B exemptions to 2029, slated to be addressed in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act.
However, on July 5th, Guam Congressman Michael San Nicolas made additions to the 2023 NDDA, comprising 36 new provisions without vetting from GDOL, according to Greg Massey, administrator of the department’s Alien Labor Processing and Certification Division.
Though now withdrawn and introduced with the intent to prevent human trafficking and labor abuse, a GDOL report details how detrimental San Nicolas’ proposed provisions could have been to Guam’s H-2B usage–as said issues are not as prevalent in Guam’s construction industry.
However, the report acknowledges that the proposals could aid in addressing workforce issues seen in the CNMI.
In an interview with PNC, Greg Massey summarized the most pressing concern surrounding San Nicolas’ proposed items– prefacing that some were not so bad and some were already in existing rules.
However, he went on to say, “if you sum it all up, basically what it does is increase the cost of construction, whether it’s on the federal side or the civilian side– and it creates a chilling effect for some contractors to use the program because it makes it too difficult to use.”
Massey added further, “On the military side, typically the military would absorb some of those costs– but where we were concerned was there’s a big push to the construction of affordable housing and local side housing– these are typically medium to small contractors who won’t be able to pass that cost onto anyone but you or me, and that was the biggest concern, was that raising the cost of construction for people trying to build homes, then those homes won’t get built.”
Another major concern, according to GDOL Director Dave Dell’Isola, was the new worker housing requirements proposed by San Nicolas. This provision required H-2B employers to offer free workforce housing to all their workers regardless of visa status, occupation, or work site.
He stated, “If it were introduced, the amendments one piece would’ve given it to all US workers, all workers, local, and the H-2’s, and they had to be OSHA compliant– which means a lot of the existing houses or apartments that these contractors purchased to use for housing could no longer be used. They’d have to go to workforce housing, and that has its own costs and its own restrictions– it just would’ve changed the whole makeup of the program and made it very restrictive. So we feel that a lot of these contractors would not have gone after the H-2s or the locals.”
According to the report, this provision would have disproportionately impacted medium to small contractors who do not have the means to construct housing facilities for temporary use.
However, moving forward, Dell’Isola says there is a need for a united approach to Washington between the Guam Contractor’s Association, The Chamber of Commerce, the Governor’s Office, and the Congressman’s office to ensure what is best for Guam in an informed and educated way.
Destiny Cruz, PNC News First.