News + Views

Foreign-worker visas may not solve labor shortage

Construction industry employers seeking unskilled workers may be able to recruit more workers if the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grants a greater number of foreign-worker visas during the 2017 fiscal year.

Under the budget that funds the federal government through the end of the fiscal year, DHS can double the number of foreign-worker visas beyond the 66,000 currently allowed under the H-2B program, the federal government's seasonal guest worker program. The law stipulates DHS first must determine "the needs of American businesses cannot be satisfied in fiscal year 2017 with U.S. workers who are willing, qualified and able to perform temporary nonagricultural labor."

Sonia Ramirez, director of government affairs at North America's Building Trades Unions (NABTU), told Bloomberg BNA the worker shortages many construction trades are experiencing can be filled by U.S. workers if employers invest in training. NABTU supports a re-examination of the rules that guide the H-2B program, and Ramirez says the industry should invest in the economic development of U.S. workers.