New York Times Hits Donald Trump Over Guest Workers at Mar-a-Lago

Trumps at Mar-a-Largo Gustavo CaballeroGetty Image
Gustavo Caballero/Getty

HOUSTON, Texas — The New York Times is out with a new investigative report on debate day here, accusing billionaire and national GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump of hiring foreigners into jobs at Mar-a-Lago that Americans could do.

“Since 2010, nearly 300 United States residents have applied or been referred for jobs as waiters, waitresses, cooks and housekeepers there. But according to federal records, only 17 have been hired,” the New York Times’ Charles Bagli and Megan Twohey wrote on Thursday. “In all but a handful of cases, Mar-a-Lago sought to fill the jobs with hundreds of foreign guest workers from Romania and other countries.”

This, the Times argues, is hypocrisy of the highest order by Trump. Bagli and Twohey continued:

In his quest for the Republican presidential nomination, Mr. Trump has stoked his crowds by promising to bring back jobs that have been snatched by illegal immigrants or outsourced by corporations, and voters worried about immigration have been his strongest backers. But he has also pursued more than 500 visas for foreign workers at Mar-a-Lago since 2010, according to the United States Department of Labor, while hundreds of domestic applicants failed to get the same jobs.

The report in the Times details how many foreign workers Trump has sought to bring in according to Labor Department records.  Bagli and Twohey wrote:

For at least 15 years, according to the Labor Department, Mr. Trump’s properties have requested guest-worker visas, including at Mar-a-Lago, the former estate of the cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, where the initiation fee alone is $100,000. Housekeepers from abroad ensure that the venue’s eight seaside cabanas are spotless, the Dorian stone from Genoa shines and the lavish guest rooms and suites in the main house, an 89- year-old mansion in the Hispano-Moresque style, are fresh for visitors. Foreign workers prepare meals and serve them at the beachfront bistro or the main dining room, and deliver cocktails at wedding receptions in the elegant White & Gold Ballroom or the more recently built Donald J. Trump Ballroom. From October to May, tourism’s high season in Palm Beach, Mr. Trump himself can often be found at the club on weekends.

Trump, they wrote, also sought guest workers at his other properties in South Florida and in Virginia and New Jersey.

“He has also sought guest workers at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach and Trump National golf club and spa in Jupiter, as well as at his vineyard in Virginia and golf clubs in New Jersey,” Bagli and Twohey wrote, before adding that it’s thus far unclear how many visas he’s actually gotten:

It is not clear how many visas were actually granted to Mar-a-Lago or other Trump properties. While the Labor Department certifies a company’s need for visas, it is up to Homeland Security and the State Department to grant them, and those departments said they were unable to provide information on how many visas each employer had received. Mr. Trump and other resort owners use a type of visa, designated H-2B, for temporary, low-skill, nonfarm workers; there is a nationwide limit of 66,000 such visas a year. Before it can be granted approval to hire foreign workers through H-2B visas, an employer has to advertise the openings on a state website of job listings and twice in a local newspaper, and to report the number of local applicants and hires to the federal government. According to records Mar-a-Lago submitted to the Labor Department, it had received at least 296 local names for 520 seasonal jobs since 2010. Some applied directly to the club; others were referred through a job placement service. Mar-a-Lago hired 17, about 6 percent of the local applicants, the records show.

The report proceeds to detail stories of several Americans who sought jobs at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s luxurious south Florida resort and golf course, but didn’t get them for whatever reason as, for any American not hired, the employer must inform the Labor Department why that happened.

“Among the reasons Mar-a-Lago gave: that the applicants could not be reached or were not qualified, as Mr. Trump suggested in his recent interview; and that they did not want the jobs,” the Times reporters wrote—after previously quoting Trump saying the same thing earlier in the article.

“The only reason they wouldn’t get a callback is that they weren’t qualified, for some reason,” Trump said in the interview. “There are very few qualified people during the high season in the area.”

Delray Beach’s Austin L. Cohen, who had applied for a job, said the job didn’t fit his needs—which means he didn’t fit the qualifications and chose not to take the job.

“That [Trump’s explanation] was the case for Austin L. Cohen of Delray Beach, who got a call from Mar-a-Lago and a tour of the 20-acre resort after sending in his résumé for a wait staff position that paid $10.60 an hour for at least 30 hours a week,” Bagli and Twohey wrote. “Mr. Cohen said that he ultimately chose to keep looking for a permanent job, and that he wanted benefits; the job listing did not mention any.”

They then quoted Cohen confirming that.

“It was more like a temporary position,” Cohen told The Times. “You work six months and then you’re out of work again. It was my decision not to take the job.”

The Times added several other American workers had turned down Mar-a-Lago positions for other reasons. “Some applicants said they decided against working at Mar-a-Lago because, like some other private clubs, it discourages gratuities; its job listings say ‘no tips,’” the Times wrote. “Local labor analysts say that private clubs often lose job candidates to restaurants where tipping is permitted.”

The Times did quote one single woman who said she would have taken a job at Mar-a-Lago after an interview but never heard back.

“But Renee L. Seymore, who applied to be a waitress at Mar-a-Lago last year, said she would have gladly taken the job, and thought her chances were good,” the Times wrote before quoting Seymore directly.

“They told me I had a great interview,” Seymore, who is 22-years-old and previously worked in a barbecue restaurant, said. “But I never heard anything back.”

Trump’s team has not yet provided an explanation for why Seymore wasn’t hired—but it could be for any variety of reasons that are as yet unclear.

“Mar-a-Lago did not respond to a question about why Ms. Seymore was passed over,” the Times wrote, adding an explanation for how the newspaper obtained her name and others. “The New York Times obtained the names of Mr. Cohen, Ms. Seymore and other applicants through Florida’s open-records law, but the state-provided records did not give the reasons for not hiring particular candidates.”

The Times, buried in the next line, notes that many of the people who didn’t get jobs there had criminal records.

“Several other applicants contacted by the Times had criminal records, but Mar-a-Lago did not state that as a reason for rejecting anyone,” the Times wrote.

The Times also, later in the piece, quoted another worker who said he was turned away from one of Trump’s other properties but now works at a competing club.

“Local workers like Bonafacio Quevedo say they are being forced to compete with the imported workers,” the Times wrote. “He said he was turned away from Trump International Golf Club when he applied in 2012, despite having previously worked as a waiter there and at Mar-a-Lago. Today he works full time at another club nearby.”

Trump’s rivals immediately pounced on the story, as the campaign of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)—who has faced serious questions for his work on behalf of increasing immigration to the detriment of American workers—circulated it to reporters on Thursday.

The Times story certainly raises some tough questions—questions Trump will undoubtedly need to answer, and his team has yet to provide a detailed explanation to Breitbart News or to other media outlets on them—but the anti-Trump National Review took the story a step further into an accusation against Trump that doesn’t hold weight.

Charles C.W. Cooke, who is pro-Rubio and anti-Trump, in a Thursday piece first posted about Trump being a “rank hypocrite on immigration,” quoted from the Times story:

Or, put another way, Trump has deliberately chosen to hire foreign workers to fill those jobs that ‘Americans just won’t do,’” Cooke wrote. “17 out of 300? That’s 5.6 percent. 17 out of 500? That’s 3.4 percent. Bad! So what’s Trump’s excuse? That’s he’s a businessman and that these are the realities on the ground? That, I’m afraid, won’t wash. When Disney behaved like this, there was a loud and sustained outcry from . . . well, no less than Donald Trump himself.

Cooke is right in that part of his story—unless Trump comes up with a believable explanation for this, such as the explanation he’s used for political donations, which is that he was taking advantage of a broken system to benefit his bottom line but understands better than anyone else how it’s broken—is that Trump looks like a hypocrite on this.

But where Cooke is wrong is where he takes his story next, in comparing what Trump did to Disney and other technology companies having their American workforces train H-1B workers to replace them. Those American workers were then fired after they trained their foreign replacements.

“In an interview with Breitbart, Trump argued that Disney should be forced to rehire any Americans it had overlooked or replaced,” Cooke wrote.

The argument that Trump’s actions were as bad as Disney’s is silly. Trump didn’t hire Americans, then bring in foreigners for a cheaper rate on visas, have those Americans he originally hired train those foreigners to do their jobs, then fire the Americans. Trump simply hired foreigners over Americans.

That doesn’t mean what Trump did is good. He’s going to have to explain it. And Cooke is right in arguing that this smacks of hypocrisy. Cooke is also right that Trump’s own words against these programs are likely going to haunt him.

“And clearly, Trump didn’t want to find them. Which means that, in his own words, he is guilty of gaming the system to ‘replace any worker with cheaper foreign labor’; he is guilty of ‘job theft’; and he is guilty of indulging the ‘legal right to pass over Americans, displace Americans, or directly replace Americans for good-paying middle class jobs,’” Cooke wrote, quoting heavily from Trump’s interviews with Breitbart News and from his immigration plan on his website.


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