Abercrombie loses Guam wage fight


POSTED: Thursday, October 08, 2009

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie has lost a battle with the Navy over workers' wages.

House and Senate conferees yesterday rejected his proposal to require contractors to hire Americans for 70 percent of the jobs created on Guam to accommodate the move of 8,000 Marines and their families being relocated from Okinawa.

Abercrombie also wanted their wages set at levels for similar projects in Hawaii.

The final language in the defense bill requires that Guam contractors advertise and recruit U.S. workers before any foreign workers can be hired. It also required that Guam wage rates cannot be kept artificially low by including low-wage foreign workers in calculations.

During his first visit to Hawaii in August, the Navy's new civilian head, Secretary Ray Mabus, said he opposed Abercrombie's amendments because it would jeopardize the move and the Pentagon could not afford to pay the proposed wages.

Abercrombie said Guam's current prevailing wages are lower than all 50 states, yet the cost of living is nearly equal to Hawaii's.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that Abercrombie's proposal would double the $10 billion construction cost.