Trump again hires foreign workers for Mar-a-Lago — little change in pay


President-elect Donald Trump is driving a hard bargain for the foreign workers who will staff The Mar-a-Lago Club this winter.

He’s paying some of them less than they made this past year, and most get just a 1 percent raise.

As the presidential campaign heated up, Trump won approval to hire 64 foreign workers through the federal government’s H-2B visa program, according to newly released data from the U.S. Labor Department. This past year, Trump was allowed to hire 69 foreign workers at Mar-a-Lago.

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While wage growth finally has begun to accelerate in the nation’s slow-to-recover job market — annual raises reached 2.5 percent for the 12 months ending in November — Trump is holding firm on pay.

The U.S. Department of Labor gave Trump permission to hire 19 cooks at $12.74 an hour, down from $13.01 an hour this past year.

Mar-a-Lago also plans to hire 30 waiters and waitresses at $11.13 an hour (up from $10.99 an hour this past year) and 15 housekeepers at $10.17 an hour, up from $10.07 an hour this past year.

In one nod to rising wages, Mar-a-Lago is offering a more generous rate of overtime pay this year.

Flat wages are the norm at Palm Beach’s private clubs. The Everglades Club won permission to hire 113 workers through the H-2B visa program. The 75 waiters and waitresses will get a small raise, to $11.13 an hour this year from $11 an hour this past year.

But wages for dining room attendants at The Everglades Club will stay unchanged, at $11 an hour, while cooks’ pay stays at $13.01 an hour.

Trump isn’t alone in looking overseas for low-wage workers.

Nationwide, thousands of employers won permission to hire more than 119,000 workers through the H-2B visa program for 2016-17. In Palm Beach County, employers plan to hire 1,844 foreign workers this year, according to a Palm Beach Post analysis of federal data.

However, hiring workers from abroad seems to contradict Trump’s public pronouncements. The president-elect has publicly shamed Carrier Corp., Ford Motor and others for their decisions to move manufacturing jobs to Mexico.

Neither Trump’s transition team nor Mar-a-Lago’s manager responded to requests for comment. During a March presidential debate, Trump defended his hiring of foreign workers.

“It’s very, very hard to get people,” Trump said. “Other hotels do the exact same thing.”

CareerSource Palm Beach County, a nonprofit job placement agency, says it knows plenty of American citizens willing to work at Mar-a-Lago.

“We have hundreds of qualified candidates and hundreds of job orders for various hospitality positions such as servers, chefs, cooks, bartenders, housekeeping, guest services, spa services, recreation, maintenance and more,” CareerSource spokesman Tom Veenstra said.

While Mar-a-Lago asks the federal government for dozens of H-2B visas every tourist season, the private club has asked CareerSource for help finding a local employee only once in the past decade, Veenstra said. That was a 2015 request for a single banquet server.

As of October, Palm Beach County’s labor market included 35,766 job seekers who were officially unemployed.

Boca West Country Club is Palm Beach County’s most prolific employer of foreign workers. It plans to hire 351 employees this season, at wages of $10.17 to $17.64. The Breakers in Palm Beach will hire 142 workers at wages of $9.61 to $12.74.



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