Labor Group Takes Aim at Trump Winery Despite No Complaints From Workers

Same labor activists complained about Trump campaign in September

Trump Vineyard Estates

Donald Trump talks in front of rows of grapevines during a news conference at his winery in Charlottesville, Va. / AP

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A labor group filed an unfair labor practice charge against the Trump Winery without receiving any complaints from workers, just months after lodging a complaint against the Donald Trump campaign.

The Committee to Preserve the Religious Right to Organize, a coalition of California unions and labor activists that sees union activities as a religious freedom issue, filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Dec. 30, news that was first reported by Politico Pro. The coalition alleged that Trump Winery’s rules for workers violates federal labor laws.

The complaint takes aim at four work rules for foreign, temporary workers. These rules require workers to seek permission from supervisors before leaving the field. At company-provided housing, rules prohibit workers from making long-distance phone calls or having guests over past a 10:30 p.m. curfew. These practices can interfere with workers’ ability to strike or contact union organizers, according to coalition attorney David Rosenfeld. The complaint says that such rules “interfere with the religious right of employees to help their sister or brother worker in violation of religious beliefs.”

Rosenfeld said the purpose of the complaint is to address working conditions for employees and raise awareness about Trump’s business practices. Trump’s companies have faced dozens of NLRB complaints over the past three decades.

“I would like to see Trump post notices about his illegal labor practices in the White House,” Rosenfeld said in a telephone interview with the Washington Free Beacon. “Ultimately, he won’t care about these rules unless it [the case] becomes an annoyance to him.”

Rosenfeld and the committee filed an unfair labor practice complaint in September against Trump’s presidential campaign after news broke about the strict non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements that former campaign employees and contractors signed. Rosenfeld said the group did not hear from any campaign workers or winery employees before filing the complaints, saying that “anybody can file a complaint” with the NLRB, the federal government’s top labor arbiter.

“No workers did reach out because if they did or complained about it they could be subject to a lawsuit. He’s notorious for suing people,” Rosenfeld said. “You can’t stop workers from having conversations about work conditions.”

Rosenfeld submitted a letter to the Department of Labor asking it to block the vineyard’s request for temporary foreign work permits, known as HB-2 visas. Those visas are issued to companies that use seasonal employees after failing to find U.S. citizens willing to take the job. The department scrutinizes pay policies associated with those jobs, as well as the company’s work practices, in order to ensure the company is not undercutting American workers. Rosenfeld said the department should not approve the application because of the winery’s unfair labor practices. Jobs at the vineyard pay $10.72 per hour, while pruners are paid 15 cents per vine, according to documents presented to the NLRB.

“Even if it turns out that the workers subject to this application are not covered by the National Labor Relations Act; the [department] should not authorize this application because these work rules violate fundamental rights under international law and the National Labor Relations Act, even if inapplicable to those particular employees,” the letter says.

The company did not respond to request for comment.

Bill McMorris   Email Bill | Full Bio | RSS
Bill McMorris is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He joins the Beacon from the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, where he was managing editor of Old Dominion Watchdog. He was a 2010 Robert Novak Fellow with the Phillips Foundation, where he studied state pension shortfalls. His work has been featured on CNN, Fox News, The Economist, Colbert Report, and numerous print publications and radio stations. He lives in Alexandria, Va, with his wife and three daughters. His Twitter handle is @FBillMcMorris. His email address is mcmorris@freebeacon.com.

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