Hire Amer­i­can at Mar-a-Lago, work­ers urge

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY LORI ROZSA na­tional@wash­post.com

west palm beach, fla. — If Pres­i­dent Trump’s Florida clubs wanted to hire U.S. work­ers, there were many will­ing to sign up at an event here this past week where other lux­ury prop­er­ties got in touch with the lo­cal work­force in search of em­ploy­ees.

“Oh, my God, work­ing at Mara-Lago is my dream job,” said Sky Ch­ester, a job hunter with ex­pe­ri­ence in the ser­vice in­dus­try. “I would do any­thing: make beds, scrub toi­lets, what­ever they need. Just to get my foot in the door at Mar-a-Lago would be amaz­ing. That place is the top of the top.”

But Trump’s com­pany did not par­tic­i­pate in the event, which drew more than 300 job seek­ers. Mar-a-Lago and the Trump Na­tional Golf Club in nearby Jupiter are in­stead en­gaged in a process to fill more than 70 jobs with for­eign work­ers. The pres­i­dent’s prop­er­ties are among the 30 in Palm Beach County that use the H-2B visa pro­gram, which al­lows U.S. com­pa­nies to hire for­eign work­ers if they can prove that they can’t find Amer­i­cans to do the jobs.

“We have the work­ers, we pre­screen the work­ers, and we can help train the work­ers,” said Tom Veen­stra, se­nior di­rec­tor of sup­port ser­vices at Ca­reerSource Palm Beach County, which hosted the job fair. “And we do it all for free. I don’t know why an em­ployer wouldn’t want to use us.”

Rekiya Over­street was en­thu­si­as­tic about the prospect of a job at Trump’s win­ter re­sort.

“I would work there, ab­so­lutely,” Over­street said. “I think it would be a great op­por­tu­nity. But I think they pre­fer to hire for­eign work­ers.”

It isn’t a mat­ter of pref­er­ence, say the em­ploy­ers who use the for­eign work­ers, in­clud­ing Trump — it’s a mat­ter of ne­ces­sity.

“It’s very, very hard to get peo­ple,” Trump said dur­ing a pres­i­den­tial de­bate last year. “There’s noth­ing wrong with it. . . . We have no choice.”

Over­street said there’s plenty of choices among lo­cal res­i­dents — all of them U.S. cit­i­zens or le­gal res­i­dents — who were pre­screened for em­ploy­ment at the ca­reer cen­ter.

Amanda Miller, a spokes­woman for the Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion, did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

Show­ing up on a blis­ter­ing hot Florida sum­mer day, dressed in their pro­fes­sional best, ré­sumés in hand, the job hope­fuls were there specif­i­cally for po­si­tions such as those at Mar-a-Lago. Their ex­pe­ri­ence is suited to the in­dus­try. They know many of the jobs are sea­sonal, that the work can be de­mand­ing and that the pay isn’t high. (Server jobs at Mar-a-Lago, like other area clubs, start at $11.88 an hour.) But they still want them.

“We could do those jobs. We’d love to have those jobs. I know I would,” Over­street said. “I just wish they’d give me that chance.”

A 14-day win­dow that U.S. work­ers had to ap­ply for the jobs be­fore they were opened to com­pe­ti­tion from H-2B visa re­cruiters has closed. Com­pa­nies us­ing the visa pro­gram must show that they made an ef­fort to find U.S. work­ers for the jobs.

“We have plenty of peo­ple to fill those jobs,” said Joyce Pepin, a se­nior man­ager at Ca­reerSource. “They just choose to work with the H-2B pro­gram.”

The Ca­reerSource cen­ter has been suc­cess­ful at plac­ing lo­cal work­ers in the in­dus­try. When a Hil­ton ho­tel opened at the Palm Beach County Con­ven­tion Cen­ter in 2015, for ex­am­ple, a job fair hosted by Ca­reerSource at­tracted more than 400 peo­ple.

The Hil­ton hired 200 of them — all lo­cal res­i­dents.

“We were able to staff that ho­tel when it opened,” Veen­stra said.

The Break­ers, Mar-a-Lago’s main com­pe­ti­tion for char­ity galas that mark the Palm Beach so­cial sea­son, also uses H-2B work­ers.

But re­cently, the Break­ers agreed to work more closely with the Ca­reerSource cen­ter. Holly Car­son, di­rec­tor of the Ca­reerSource youth pro­gram, said that last week, the re­sort of­fered a train­ing ses­sion to 20 young peo­ple look­ing to get started in the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try. The Break­ers in­vited the young job seek­ers (ages 17 to 24) to the re­sort to shadow their staff.

Car­son hopes that Trump’s com­pany will do some­thing sim­i­lar.

“I would like to in­vite him to come and see what we do, and see the kind of peo­ple we have here,” Car­son said. “We have a lot of great peo­ple we’re try­ing to help find jobs.”

Ch­ester, a fan of Mar-a-Lago’s glam­our since she moved to Palm Beach County in 1986, said her 55 years of work ex­pe­ri­ence in­clude many jobs that would make her a suit­able hire.

“I’ve been work­ing since I was 16, and I want to keep work­ing. I have to, to pay my rent,” Ch­ester said. “I’m will­ing to do any­thing. I need a job.”

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