By: Bruce E. Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law


Trump Winery in Charlottesville, Virginia fired seven undocumented workers in late December 2019 because of their undocumented status, according to The Washington Post. These discharges occurred almost a year after the media stated the Trump Organization employed numerous undocumented employees at many of its properties, including several golf courses. In response to the media attention, the Trump Organization discharged many undocumented workers at the golf courses and pledged to do so at all of its properties. (See http://discuss.ilw.com/blogs/bbuchan...mented-workers.)

The timing of the firings is suspicious because it comes immediately after workers had finished the arduous annual grape harvest and as the vineyard’s winter downtime started. Omar Miranda, one of the discharged long-term employees stated “They (Trump Organization) didn’t make this decision in the summer because they needed us a lot then.” The Trump Organization responded to this allegation as follows: “Consistent with our efforts, we will immediately terminate any individual who has provided fake identification in order to unlawfully gain employment.”

Additionally, undocumented workers at the winery were broadcast by Univision in May 2019. However, no employment actions were taken at that time, presumably because the harvest season had begun. Miranda’s bosses praised his work, never mentioning immigration papers.

Then in late December, Kerry Woolard, the winery’s general manager, met with Miranda and said, “So, when we looked at your forms and documents, some of the documentation did not seem genuine, or was insufficient. Do you currently have legal permission to work in the United States?” “No,” Miranda replied. “So unfortunately, this means we have to end our employment relationship today,” Woolard said.

The labor-intensive winery has long relied on about 25 to 30 Hispanic immigrants on H-2A temporary work visas. But there has also been a smaller parallel staff of undocumented employees who worked at the property year-round. The latter group was the group fired in December 2019.

After Trump purchased the winery in 2013, he converted the manor house into a boutique hotel known as the Albemarle Estate at Trump Winery. Some of the workers involved in renovating the manor house were also undocumented — members of a roving group of Trump Organization stonemasons. President Trump owns the land under the winery, which produced rental income between $300,000 and $3 million in 2018, and the Albemarle hotel on the property, which earned $1.14 million in revenue in 2018. Legally, the wine is manufactured by the Eric Trump Wine Manufacturing Company, of which Eric Trump is president.

Miranda was officially employed by Trump Vineyard Estates LLC. Miranda first joined the winery under its previous owner and then was hired by the Trump Organization in 2013, using fake documents he had purchased for $120. “The papers one uses, they know it’s something illegal,” Miranda said. “The owner knows.”

Miranda said a longtime vineyard field supervisor who is no longer with the company was also undocumented and knew many employees working for him were in the same situation. Other managers helped fill out applications for employees without legal status, Miranda said.

If you want to know more information on issues related to employer immigration compliance, I recommend you read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, a book I co-authored with Greg Siskind, and available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379