A newly-appointed member of Donald Trump’s Department of Labor “landing team” — tasked with helping set up and implement the transition to a Trump administration — is the president of a recruiting agency that specializes in connecting employers, including major hotels, with temporary laborers from Mexico, the Caribbean, and other parts of the developing world.
Veronica Birkenstock, named to the Department of Labor team on Monday, is the president of Practical Employee Solutions (PES). PES promotes itself as specializing in the use of H-2B visas, having recruited “over 40,000” workers in fields including hospitality, landscaping, welding, and construction, from 80 different countries. It is also the “preferred vendor of Marriott and Starwood Hotels.”
H-2B visas are reserved for foreign workers who are not immigrants: They come to the country to do typically seasonal, temporary work. The sole purpose of these visas is for nonagricultural employers to bring in employees to do what is basically low-income, low-skilled labor.
Donald Trump campaigned on a form of economic nationalism that puts “America First,” and in his video announcing his plan for his first 100 days, he pledged to have the Department of Labor “investigate all abuses of visa programs that undercut the American worker.”
The H-2B program has come under criticism for helping suppress wages of domestic workers. The Economic Policy Institute, which Trump frequently cited on the campaign trail, believes that the program leaves “workers vulnerable to low pay and abuse.”
In one of these videos, owners of landscaping firms testify that they can’t find domestic workers, and that’s why they have to utilize H-2B visas.
Birkenstock has spent the last 20 years working at PES and helping employers find cheap labor. Needless to say, that isn’t America First.