The chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), Stephen Sandherr, urged Congress to act quickly on a bill introduced in the House of Representatives to establish a federal temporary visa program for construction and other industries. The association is urging members of Congress to support the measure. Other organizations including the National Roofing Contractors Association have also voiced support.
The Workforce for an Expanding Economy Act was introduced last week by Pennsylvania Congressmen Lloyd Smucker.
Under the terms of the bill, employers and potential laborers, classified in the bill as "H-2C nonimmigrants," would both apply for federal approval to participate. The position must meet a variety of criteria including documentation that the employer is operating in a "full employment area" (defined as a city or county with unemployment of 4.9% or lower), document of prevailing wage rates in the metropolitan area where the temporary worker is to work, and attestation that the employer has not laid off and will not lay off a U.S. worker in the position within a given window of time. The workers would be able to enter the U.S. only when they have received approval from the government.
"The shortage of available, qualified, workers in many parts of the country threatens to undermine continued economic growth," Sandherr said, noting that 80% of construction firms reported last year they were having a hard time finding qualified workers to hire.
Sandherr said the association has long advocated for a temporary worker visa system for the construction sector that allows for more workers during periods when labor is scarce, but lowers the number of visas during slower economic cycles. "Creating a temporary, flexible, worker visa system will allow all types of economic development to proceed without costly delays caused by workforce shortages," he said in a release.
Sandherr said the proposed legislation would help reduce illegal immigration by creating a more viable path for qualified construction workers to enter the country when demand rises and leave when demand subsides. "This measure will help put an end to an immigration system that creates too many incentives for workers to illegally enter the country while also boosting economic growth."