Opinion Columns & Blogs - INACTIVE

Trump puts foreign workers first

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump talks a good game about putting Americans back to work. But at three of his Florida businesses, he prefers to hire Romanian immigrants.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump talks a good game about putting Americans back to work. But at three of his Florida businesses, he prefers to hire Romanian immigrants. AP file

It’s that time of year again when Donald Trump tells the federal government that he can’t find American workers willing to clean, cook, and serve meals at his Mar-a-Lago Club.

Last month he asked the U.S. Labor Department to approve the importation of 65 foreign workers to staff his Palm Beach club for the upcoming season and another 13 to work at his Trump National Golf Club resort in Jupiter.

It’s an odd request considering the “America first” theme of his presidential campaign.

“We are going to have an immigration system that works, but one that works for the American people,” Trump said during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention last month.

But it’s not easy to square how his use of the H2B Visa program is making immigration help American workers.

To shut out American workers from jobs at his Palm Beach resorts, Trump is claiming that working there is so unappealing that it requires tapping into the national allowance of 66,000 foreign workers the U.S. imports each year to do our worst jobs.

Trump and owners of some other luxury resorts claim they need these workers because Americans are either unqualified or unwilling to take the seasonal jobs.

But that’s clearly not the case in Palm Beach County. Just ask Tom Veenstra, senior director of support services at CareerSource Palm Beach County, a local job placement service.

“We currently have 839 job orders for various hospitality positions such as servers, chefs, cooks, bartenders, housekeeping, guest services, spa services, recreation, maintenance and more – and we expect these job orders to increase considerably as the season gets underway,” Veenstra emailed me. “These include full-time, part-time, year-round and seasonal positions.”

By Veenstra’s numbers, 314 local hotels, clubs and resorts placed job orders with CareerSource last tourist season, which led to nearly 2,500 local people getting hospitality jobs.

“Because of the importance of this industry to Palm Beach County, we have a team of hospitality industry specific recruiters and host local recruiting events,” Veenstra said.

But Trump has staffed his clubs mostly with seasonal foreign workers who make $10 to $12 an hour, and due to their immigration status, lack the ability to seek another job if they are unhappy with their hours or working conditions.

He imports a lot of his workers from Romania, where he uses a job recruiter. This wasn’t something he brought up in his speech earlier this month, when he was talking about being a hero of the American worker.

“I am going to bring back our jobs to Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and New York, and Michigan and to all of America, and I am not going to let companies move to other countries, firing their employees along the way, without consequence,” he said in his acceptance speech.

His daughter, Ivanka, who introduced Trump, vouched for her father’s love of American workers: “No one has more faith in the American people than my father.”

(The next morning, Ivanka Trump posted on her Twitter account how people could buy a version of the $138 dress she wore for the speech. The dress, which is part of her clothing line, is made in China.)

So has Donald Trump ever used Palm Beach County’s job placement service to find workers at his clubs?

”According to our records going back to 2006, we have not had any job orders from Mar-a-Lago other than for a banquet server position in Sept. 2015,” Veenstra wrote. “We also have not received any job orders from either of the two Trump golf clubs in Palm Beach County.

“Regarding the single job order from Mar-a-Lago, our recruiters met with their staff on Sept. 16, 2015. Main topic was about job skill requirements for the various types of positions they were looking to fill,” Veenstra continued.

“Since that meeting, our records show they placed the one job order with us for a banquet server. …We called the HR Director after the hire and she said they were pleased with the hire and the candidates we sent them.

“There has been nothing else since then.”

Frank Cerabino writes for The Palm Beach Post. Email: frank_cerabino@pbpost.com.