A Virginia winery owned by President Donald Trump’s son Eric is seeking permission to hire 23 more foreign guest workers, according to a petition posted by the Department of Labor on Thursday.
Trump Winery, also known as Trump Vineyard Estates, LLC, is seeking the workers under the federal H-2 visa program, which permits US employers to hire foreign laborers under temporary work visas as long as no qualified US workers want the jobs. The work on the 1,300-acre estate, which would pay $11.46 an hour, is to start in March and could run through late October.
The information posted Thursday did not describe working conditions, but in the past, foreign workers at the winery have been warned they would have to labor outside in weather as cold as 10 degrees while “on their feet in bent positions for long periods of time.”
Since 2003, employers have brought in more than 100,000 foreign workers under the H-2 program each year. Businesses owned by President Trump or bearing his name have been frequent users of the program in the past, seeking to hire more than 400 foreign guest workers since he launched his presidential campaign. Many have worked as servers and house cleaners at Mar-a-Lago, the Florida golf club that is informally referred to as the Winter White House.
A 2015 BuzzFeed News investigation found that H-2 workers in a range of industries 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 mistreating H-2 workers.
Trump campaigned on a promise to restore US jobs. When asked, previously, about requests to bring in foreign workers, he has said it is “almost impossible” to find Americans who want these positions. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did the winery.
The winery’s website says it “is a registered trade name of Eric Trump Wine Manufacturing LLC, which is not owned, managed, or affiliated with Donald J. Trump or any of his affiliates.” Eric Trump was given the operation by his father in 2012, according to news reports.
In July 2015, shortly after launching his presidential campaign, Donald Trump hosted a campaign event at the winery. He later tweeted a link to a related Time article, titled “Trump Talks Politics at His Virginia Winery.”
“We need to take back our jobs, we need to take back our factories,” the article quotes Trump as saying at the campaign event.
In August, speaking to reporters following the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville that injured dozens and killed a young woman, Trump told the media that he owned the winery.
In the same news conference, he also said boosting employment could help heal racial divides.
“I think if we continue to create jobs at levels that I’m creating jobs, I think that’s going to have a tremendous impact — positive impact on race relations,” Trump said.