Email #138: “Hire American”?

This week I received a “White House Memo” mass email that began:

“‘Buy American and Hire American’ is more than just a slogan, it is the cornerstone of President Donald J. Trump’s vision for a government that, for the first time in decades, answers to the American workers who built this country.”

It’s ironic then that Trump Winery in Charlottesville, Virginia is hiring foreign workers. The winery is owned by the President’s son Eric Trump, who requested 29 temporary workers through a federal visa program designed to fill jobs that employers are unable to fill with American citizens.

Why don’t Americans want to work for Trump’s son? The winery is paying $10.72 an hour. If these were year-round, 40 hours-a-week positions, each would yield an annual income of $22,298. The poverty line is $24,600.

In what sense is “Hire American” a cornerstone of an administration that answers to American workers, if one of the President’s own family businesses relies on jobs that require its workers to toil in poverty? Rather than exploiting foreign workers so desperate to reach the U.S. that they will take any job no matter how impoverishing, why doesn’t the President use his family business as a model for the worker-focused vision he claims to have?

You wrote in February: “When the American economy is thriving, there are more job opportunities, higher wages, and lower prices for consumers. I will seek to restore accountability for, and provide relief from, the excessive red tape facing our nation’s small businesses and job creators.”

Does that include the red tape facing Trump Winery when it applies for H-2A visas, a program signed into law by President Reagan? Should Trump Winery not be required to complete “the excessive red tape” of first advertising those jobs in Charlottesville area newspapers? Because opportunities for abuse of workers is so high, Trump Winery and similar H-2A agricultural employers are some of the most regulated employers in the country. Do you intend to provide “relief” from their having to provide housing, meals, and transportation? Why not strike the requirement that workers must return home after three years? Shouldn’t years of poverty wages for a job that no Americans want make someone eligible for citizenship?

Since Trump Winery is a Trump family business located in Virginia, I would think both you and the President would want to make it a beacon of GOP economic and immigrant policies. Instead it demonstrates how the government colludes with businesses to maintain below-poverty-level wages by importing desperate workers instead of raising wages to employ Americans.

This isn’t answering “to the American workers who built this country.” It’s ignoring and insulting them.




Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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