Non-competes on the FTC and Congressional radars           

Non-competition agreements – alive and well in Guam, according to Journal sources – and quite possibly elsewhere in the islands of Micronesia – could be a thing of the past if the FTC and Congress prevail.  

A proposed new Federal Trade Commission rule against such agreements is available for comment until March 20.

“The Federal Trade Commission proposed a new rule that would ban employers from imposing noncompetes on their workers,” the FTC said in a Jan. 5 release.

In its overview, the FTC said, “About one in five American workers — approximately 30 million people — are bound by a non-compete clause and are thus restricted from pursuing better employment opportunities.”

The FTC also said in the release, “Because non-compete clauses prevent workers from leaving jobs and decrease competition for workers, they lower wages for both workers who are subject to them, as well as workers who are not. Non-compete clauses also prevent new businesses from forming, stifling entrepreneurship, and prevent novel innovation which would otherwise occur when workers are able to broadly share their ideas.” 

The FTC estimated that “the proposed rule would increase American workers’ earnings between $250 billion and $296 billion per year.”

On Feb. 1, U.S. senators and members of the House of Representatives reintroduced to the 118th Congress a bill – the Workforce Mobility Act – which would prohibit the use and enforcement of post-employment non-compete agreements, and has bipartisan support.  

If enacted, the bill – which has a history of introduction since 2018 – would empower the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Department of Labor and attorneys general to investigate and enforce a ban on non-compete agreements, as well as require employers to rescind such agreements.

The bill would also provide individuals with a private right of action in which they could recover damages and attorneys’ fees. It would also require employers to make employees aware of the limitations on non-compete agreements by posting notices in workplaces. The bill provides for limited exceptions.

Readers can find definitions of non-competes, the rule and a related fact sheet here:

The Guam Code Annotated also refers to “unlawful contracts,” that govern “restraint of trade” in 18 GCA §88105. The section reads, “Every contract, by which anyone is restrained from exercising a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind, otherwise than is provided in the next two sections, is to that extent void.” The Guam Code Annotated can be found at

GVB board to meet; bylaws to wait

At its next general membership meeting, the board of directors of the Guam Visitors Bureau is expected to act on the bylaws – which govern how the board and agency operates.

Josh Tyquiengco, the public information officer for GVB, said the date will be determined later. “The main priority was making sure the membership election was successfully completed.”

However, the board is due to meet on March 8, to “welcome and acknowledge” the board member appointed by the 37th Guam Legislature, discuss the election of officers, and the selection of the 12th director.

That meeting will be held virtually, as well as in-person.

On Feb. 24, GVB elected four members to serve on its board of directors for a two-year term, which started immediately. They are George Chiu, executive vice president of Tan Holdings; Joaquin P.L.G. Cook, president, and CEO of Bank of Guam; Jeffrey B. Jones, president and chief operating officer of Triple J Enterprises Inc., and Paula LG Monk, manager of sales for Guam and Micronesia at United Airlines.

Air Niugini makes inaugural flight from Australia to PNG to Palau

On Feb. 28, about 25 passengers arrived on the inaugural Air Niugini flight from Brisbane, Australia to Palau, with a stopover in Papua New Guinea.

As the Journal earlier reported, Air Niugini will operate a Boeing 767 every Tuesday from Brisbane to Palau every Tuesday via Port Moresby, with the return flight on Wednesdays.

The flight was greeted at the Roman Tmetuchl International Airport in Airai by Richelle Turner, the Ambassador of Australia to Palau, Bruce Alabaster, CEO of Air Niugini Airlines, Vice President and Minister of Justice J. Uduch Sengebau Senior, Minister Ngiraibelas Tmetuchl of the Ministry of Human Resources, Culture, Tourism and Development, Minister Charles I. Obichang of the Ministry of Public Infrastructure and Industries, Sen. Mason Whipps, and Airai state Gov. Norman Ngiratecheboet.

According to Journal files, the Australia-Pacific Connector Flight is a partnership between Air Niugini and the Australian government. and is supported financially by Australia’s Pacific Flight Program.

(From left) Jacinta Waine, first assistant secretary of Air Transport Division at the Papua New Guinea Department of Transport; Palau Vice President and Minister of Justice J. Uduch Senior; Bruce Alabaster, CEO of Air Niugini Airlines; and Australian ambassador to Palau Richelle Turner cut the cake during a small ceremony celebrating the inaugural Australia flight to Palau.
Photo courtesy of the Palau National Government

United Airlines flies between Palau and Guam and Palau and the Philippines. China Airlines flies between Palau and Taiwan. President Surangel S. Whipps Jr. and Obichang and Tmetuchl also have met with representatives for airlines flying to Singapore, Japan and other countries in the Asia Pacific region to generate further traffic.


Support for LEAP funding for restaurant group grows


There’s a potential $15 million that could be used to help restaurants as tourism numbers remain low and the industry continues to struggle.

Following its formation and initial announcement in January (See “Aid on the menu,” group seeks recovery help,” in the Jan. 3 issue of the Journal, the Guam Restaurateur Collective continued to make its case for financial aid through the Local Employers’ Assistance Program.

The collective sent out a further release on Feb. 28.

Guam Economic Development Authority CEO and Administrator Melanie Mendiola told the Journal she spoke to Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero, who said $5 million can be set aside.

Additionally, she said, Sen. Joe S. San Augustin said the 37th Guam Legislature should be able to get $5 million and maybe even $10 million to assist as well. The funds would be funneled into the LEAP Supplemental Program.

There are at least two pieces of legislation introduced, indicating bipartisan support for a second iteration of LEAP. Sen. Darrell C. Barnett’s Bill No. 59-37 and Sen. Frank Blas’s Bill 61-37.

The group had been meeting with senators, members of the Leon Guerrero-Tenorio administration, and GEDA to discuss proposals for funding assistance for businesses.

According to Journal files, the Guam Restaurateur Collective represents more than 1,500 hospitality employees that broadly impact an additional 5,500 family members. This makes the restaurant industry the largest single private sector employer. Many of these establishments continue to cope with revenue loss of up to 60% since the pandemic, while faced with rising costs in food, utilities, and other operating expenses, according to Journal files.

Mendiola, in a February letter to the collective, wrote GEDA is happy to support “a smaller program to aid 200 – 250 of the most pandemic affected businesses.”  

“As the number currently floating around is $10 million to $15 million, we are likely needing to budget for reduced awards,” she wrote, adding that other salient points to consider, include a maximum of $75,000 to $100,000 for businesses with more than four employees, and a maximum of $10,000 to $15,000 for businesses with four or fewer employees, if including these businesses.

Like other programs, there will exclusions for certain categories of businesses (e.g. passive investments) and “due to the limitations in funding, we may need to tighten even more,” she said.

She said GEDA also asks legislators to support the program with $10 million to match the governor’s $5 million.

“Remind them that when LEAP was over budget by $12 million, it was the governor that closed the gap. We could make a more significant impact with $15 million total than $10 million total,” Mendiola wrote.


US focus on Pacific offers stated benefits to FSM

The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Henry returned to its homeport in Guam on Feb. 27, “following a week-long deployment to the Federated States of Micronesia countering illegal fishing and strengthening partnerships with the local island communities of several Yap outer island atolls, part of the ongoing Operation Rematau,” the U.S. Coast Guard said in a release a week later.

Operation Rematau is how U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam “supports the overarching Coast Guard endeavor Operation Blue Pacific to promote security, safety, sovereignty, and economic prosperity in Oceania,” the release said. 

The operation “is how U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam supports the overarching Coast Guard endeavor Operation Blue Pacific to promote security, safety, sovereignty, and economic prosperity in Oceania.” 

“Rematau” means people of the deep sea, according to the Coast Guard. “It recognizes the wisdom of the Pacific Island Forum leaders in that securing the future requires long-term vision and a carefully considered regional strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. Operation Rematau reinforces U.S. commitment to working together to advance Pacific regionalism based on the Blue Pacific narrative. This action supports U.S. national security objectives, bolstering regional maritime governance and security.”

Operation Rematau began in October 2022.

“During the patrol, the crew supported partners in the Federated States of Micronesia, completing four port calls and four community relations events. They also provided underway training opportunities for eight members assigned to temporary duty on the ship. They enhanced the ongoing U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy partnership, embarking two medical personnel from U.S. Naval Hospital Guam,” the Coast Guard said in a March 6 release.

“Partnering with the Ayuda Foundation, the Oliver Henry crew onloaded more than 4,500 [pounds] of supplies, generously donated by local businesses and community members in Guam for future transport to remote islands in Ulithi and Woleai atolls. Donated supplies included educational material, clothing, kitchenware, fishing gear, toys, shelf-stable meals, interior paint, marine-grade orange paint, marine fiberglass repair kits, and water pumps.”


USDOL OSHA finds Pepsi Guam violating safety standards

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has found Pepsi Guam Bottling Co. in Harmon operating with several violations of its safety standards. 

“Federal safety inspectors found Pepsi Guam Bottling jeopardized the safety of their employees by disabling safety devices to allow workers to reach into a bottle-labeling machine as often as 15 times an hour to grab and fix labels and adjust tipping bottles to avoid slowing or stopping production,” according to a Feb. 28 release.

OSHA determined Pepsi Guam Bottling exposed employees to amputation and other serious injuries by leaving the machine’s guard doors open and permitting a safety proximity switch to be deactivated. The agency found the company failed to protect workers from operating machine parts, according to the press release.

“By exposing workers to the risk of severe injury, Pepsi Guam Bottling showed a willingness to put profit before the safety of its employees,” said OSHA Regional Administrator James Wulff in San Francisco. “Industrial machinery is unforgiving and can cause sudden, severe and disabling injuries or worse when machine guards are bypassed.”

Pepsi Guam Bottling is facing $180,807 in penalties. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Pepsi Guam Bottling on Mar. 3 issued a response to the citations, which was sent to the Journal.

“We have already addressed most of OSHA’s issues and we are confident that once OSHA has reviewed all relevant information, they will agree that PGB has always acted with the best of intentions and with a sincere desire to protect the safety of our employees,” said John Denight, general manager for Pepsi Guam Bottling. “PGB has strict production operating standards that we follow every day based on the equipment manufacturer’s instructions, operating manuals, and training.”

Denight said employee safety is Pepsi Guam Bottling’s “top priority.” mbj