Contributed by: Hope Cristobal
This article is a sad realization of the fight for power among those that have none…where short-sighted monetary gains outweigh the larger issue of indigenous sovereignty and rights to existence. In a world where our indigenous people—our Kanaka Maoli and Chamorus—fight for meager survival (food, shelter, family) in our own land, it becomes all too easy for us to forget the larger picture. My indigenous brothers and sisters of the Pacific: I ask that you not forget that the giant whale of the US Federal Government swallows us all up like krill in the ocean—where the largest of the animals survives by feeding on the smallest.
$4B Guam deal benefits Hawaii
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, May 12, 2010
Hawaii’s construction industry has gained part of $4 billion in initial contracts for building military facilities on Guam for U.S. military forces to be transferred from Okinawa. The potential boost to Hawaii’s companies was provided last year but the weakening of a provision that then-Rep. Neil Abercrombie attached to a defense spending bill casts uncertainty about the opportunities for rank-and-file workers.
The total five-year construction project is expected to cost $10 billion, $6 billion of it to be paid by Japan. Opponents of Abercrombie’s initial proposal warned that it could double the cost during a recession that has entailed huge deficit spending. He responded that it came “at a time when a depressed economy has dealt a body blow to our construction industry.”
A project that includes headquarters, homes and facilities for the relocation of 8,000 Marines and supporting units from Okinawa to Guam is expected to create 15,000 construction jobs, increasing the island territory’s population by 14 percent. The seven companies that won bids include four joint ventures based in Hawaii: CNMS; Core-Tech-AMEC-SKEC, LLC; Guam MACC Builders JV; and KiewitMortenson.
Before resigning from Congress to run for governor, Abercrombie first proposed requiring contractors for the project to hire Americans for 70 percent of the jobs created. Instead, Congress agreed to require the contractors to advertise and recruit American workers under U.S. Labor Department oversight before hiring any foreign workers.
That does not mean they will be paid average Hawaii or even mainland wages. The 1931 Davis-Bacon Act requires that civilian workers in federal projects be paid the local prevailing wage, and Congress rightly rejected Abercrombie’s proposal that it be Hawaii’s prevailing wage, which is at least twice that of Guam. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that Abercrombie’s proposal would have doubled the construction cost, and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said the Pentagon could not afford such a price tag. It has become alarmingly apparent that government spending cannot continue with a blank-check mentality.
Instead, the defense spending act calls for a reassessment of Guam’s wages and, if necessary, an adjustment. The Labor Department has scheduled a three-day public conference on the issue on Guam next week.
In the past, Abercrombie has said, contractors have been allowed to “bring in thousands of foreign workers, pay a bounty of $1,000 per worker to the government of Guam, pay the workers bare subsistence wages with no benefits, house them in work camps and charge them for room and meals.”
The construction contracts are great for the four Hawaii joint ventures, but the makeup of their Guam workforce is uncertain. The Labor Department should determine how to require adequate wages to lure American workers without shocking Guam’s island economy with abnormally high pay.