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 Mar-a-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.”