Trump Winery hiring more foreign workers than previous years

Posted at 11:05 AM, Mar 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-21 11:09:24-04

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The Charlottesville, Virginia winery owned by President Donald Trump’s family recently applied for more foreign workers than in previous years,  though the request follows the seasonal trend of other Virginia wineries also filing for foreign workers for farm work. Trump, who turned his sprawling business network over to his family after the inauguration, promised “two simple rules” in his inaugural address: to “buy American and hire American.”

In a filing with the U.S. Department of Labor, the Trump Vineyard Estates, now run by Eric Trump,  requested an additional 23 foreign workers to serve as farmworkers and laborers, six days a week for a total of 40 hours. These temporary jobs pay $11.27 an hour and run from April 3 to Oct. 27, 2017.

In December 2016, the winery filed a temporary work request for six workers. The pay for those jobs was $10.72 an hour, and the jobs were expected to run from Jan. 31 to June 30. The job listing utilizes the federal H-2A visa program, which permits U.S. employers to temporarily hire foreign agricultural laborers, with the caveat that no qualified Americans want the jobs instead.

The vineyard has employed foreign workers since 2014, a couple of years after Trump bought the winery from Kluge Estate. Based on work requests filed with the Labor Department, the winery is seeking about nine more employees total than previous years,  likely due to a surge in sales.

Trump wine flew off the shelves at Virginia Wegmans grocery stores, despite a call in February by a women’s organization to boycott the popular grocery chain for selling Trump wine. Virginia ABC sells six wines from Trump Winery in Charlottesville. Sales of Trump wine more than doubled from2015 to 2016, according to Virginia ABC spokesperson Valerie Hubbard.

Other Virginia wineries who have over the years employed foreign workers for farm work include Barboursville Winery,  Glass House Winery, Grace Estate Winery, Horton Vineyards, Early Mountain Vineyard, and Mount Juliet.

Barboursville, which has produced wine in Virginia over 40 years, is considered one of the biggest wineries in the state. They sell domestically and internationally, distributing in China and the United Kingdom. Barboursville’s most recent work request for foreign workers sought 16 employees to work six days a week, for 48 hours a week, at $10.72 an hour (pay in 2016 appears to be set at this rate, and was increased in 2017).

Horton has requested foreign laborers every year, going back to at least 2012.  Their most recent request, filed in March, is for nine vineyard farmworkers to work six days a week, for 45 hours a week at $11.27 an hour.

Trump has vowed repeatedly to clamp down on immigration and make jobs available for Americans. But Trump’s various businesses have been granted approval to hire at least 1,256 foreign guest workers over the last 15 years, according to a CNN analysis of Labor Department filings. Since the start of Trump’s campaign in June 2015, companies he owns have requested at least 190 foreign visa workers, according to Department of Labor data.

The workers were hired on a variety of different U.S. visa programs.

Most of the requests for foreign workers were for the Mar-a-Lago Club, Trump’s exclusive crown jewel property that is both a resort and sports club, nestled on the shores of Palm Beach. In the past 10 years, 849 foreign guest workers were approved to work at the resort, mostly as servers, cooks, housekeepers or similar positions.

Trump has said publicly that he has turned to foreign workers when his businesses cannot find Americans to take the jobs he is looking to fill. Indeed, the Department of Labor requires proof that an employer seeking to import workers tried but failed to attract qualified U.S. workers.

“You cannot get help during the season. The season goes from like October to March. It’s almost impossible to get help,” Trump said during the campaign, when asked why Mar-a-Lago hired foreign guest workers. “And part of the reason you can’t get American people is they want full-time jobs.”

Records show Mar-a-Lago appears to have done the bare minimum required by law to advertise the jobs to U.S. workers. According to a CNN analysis of hundreds of pages of Labor Department documents, Mar-a-Lago did not place advertisements in the area’s largest newspaper. Instead, ads were placed in a local paper with a small circulation. Additionally, the ads were routinely posted for just two days, the minimum required by law.

— CNN’s Scott Bronstein, Drew Griffin and Will Cadigan contributed to this story.

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