Major new building and infrastructure construction should contribute to our local economies by putting local people to work. After all, the wages and benefits paid to local construction workers are reinvested in the local economy, enabling workers to buy homes, support local businesses, pay taxes, and contribute to civic life. And big projects not only provide employment to local construction workers, but also create opportunities for new entrants to the skilled construction workforce.
Unfortunately, some project owners hire contractors that rely on out-of-state or H-2B guest workers. The H-2B guest worker visa program allows employers to hire guest workers to fill temporary “seasonal” jobs. Construction is one of the top industries for H-2B workers. Many contractors that use H-2B falsely contend that they are unable to fill vacancies because they are jobs which U.S. workers are unwilling to do.
This is simply not true. Employers often turn to the program to avoid paying U.S. workers fair wages, and instead turn to guest workers who they can exploit. The EB-5 visa program which grants visas to foreign nationals who invest in domestic construction projects is another problematic visa program. This program needs greater oversight and transparency and provisions to ensure that the jobs created through foreign investment have strong labor standards.