Politics

Trump Winery Seeks Even More Foreign Workers

The Virginia wine producer, owned by Eric Trump, is the latest Trump family business to seek foreign guest workers for US jobs. Latest request asks for 23 laborers, on top of six sought in December.

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US President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference announcing Alexander Acosta as the new Labor Secretary nominee in the East Room at the White House on Feb. 16 in Washington, DC. The announcement comes a day after Andrew Puzder withdrew his nomination.

A Virginia winery owned by President Donald Trump’s son Eric is seeking permission to import almost two dozen additional foreign workers, according to a petition posted by the Department of Labor on Thursday.

The Trump Winery, also known as Trump Vineyard Estates, LLC, is asking to bring in 23 workers this spring to plant and harvest grapes. The workers are being sought under the federal H-2 visa program, which permits American employers to hire foreign laborers under temporary work visas as long as no qualified US workers want the jobs. The job on the 1,300-acre estate could run through late October.

The latest request is in addition to six workers the winery sought in December. The jobs will pay $11.27 an hour and require workers to labor outside in weather as cold as 10 degrees while “on their feet in bent positions for long periods of time,” according to the job posting.

Since 2003, more than 100,000 foreigners have been brought in under the H-2 program each year. Businesses owned by President Trump or bearing his name have been big users of the program in the past, seeking to hire at least 286 foreign guest workers since he launched his presidential campaign. Many work as servers and house cleaners at Mar-a-Lago, the Florida estate that has recently been termed the Winter White House.

The president’s press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did Trump Vineyards. In the past, Trump has said it is “almost impossible” to find Americans who want such jobs.

Some, however, have criticized the president for vowing to restore American jobs while relying on imported foreign guestworkers.

“With Trump, hypocrisy know no bounds,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva, a Democrat from Arizona who has called for better conditions for guest workers and whose father came to the US under a precursor to the H-2 program.

Last fall, a special envoy from the United Nations raised concerns about the federal guest worker program, saying it puts workers at risk of exploitation and even trafficking. A BuzzFeed News investigation in 2015 found that H-2 workers were often exploited, and sometimes raped or beaten. BuzzFeed News also found that many Americans were denied jobs in favor of guest workers. Trump companies have not been accused of abusing H-2 workers.

The winery’s website says it is not owned by the president but rather by his son Eric, who was given the operation by his father in 2012, according to news reports.

Still, in the midst of the Republican primary campaign last year, Trump held a press conference at one of his golf clubs and claimed ownership of it. Speaking before a table stacked high with wine, he said: “I own it 100%, no mortgage, no debt.” Shortly before he took office, Trump announced that he was turning his businesses over to his children to run.

Jessica Garrison is a senior investigative editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.

Contact Jessica Garrison at jessica.garrison@buzzfeed.com.

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Contact Jeremy Singer-Vine at jeremy.singer-vine@buzzfeed.com.

Ken Bensinger is an investigative reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. His secure PGP fingerprint is 97CC 6E32 10A2 23FE 4E84 98B4 9CFF 4214 9D26 8AA7

Contact Ken Bensinger at ken.bensinger@buzzfeed.com.

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