Imported labor or the lack of imported labor due to government action in recent years has been a major drag on Guam’s economy and development in recent years. What prompted an effective Washington-imposed freeze on H-2B workers from the Philippines has never been fully explained, but recently this policy has been loosened, at least as regards projects need for the Guam military buildup.
The continued reluctance to approve workers for civilian projects has prompted bi-partisan complaints to Washington D.C., as officials have repeatedly pointed out there’s simply not a sufficient labor force to meet both military and civilian demands.
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There was further confusion in April, after the federal government overrode objections of the Department of Homeland Security to approve additional H-2B workers for Guam. The approvals come even after the Philippines was removed from Homeland Security’s list of countries approved for H-2B labor. The Philippines was removed from the list of approved countries in January, creating uncertainty in the contractor community in sourcing workers from the country.
If part of the issue is past labor abuse, then a new memorandum of understanding between federal and local labor authorities should have some impact, though similar agreements are being signed between mainland states and the U.S. Department of Labor, according to U.S. DOL Acting Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division Keith Sonderling: