Donald Trump used and abused undocumented immigrant labor on his Trump Tower project in Manhattan. That’s not baseless opinion or left leaning fiction. There are hundreds of pages of court documents full of sworn testimony from many people, including Don himself.
Trump was sued by a union worker for underpayment of fees to the union. The court action hinged on the number of non-union workers, most of whom were undocumented immigrants from Poland. The suit (83CIV6346 in Manhattan Federal Court) was brought by Harry Diduck and was settled after nearly two decades of decisions, appeals, and delays.
Demolition of Bonwit Teller
At the end of January 1980, Trump hired Kaszycki and Sons Contractors to demolish the 10 story Bonwit Teller building on the construction site, agreeing to pay them $775,000. Kaszycki was a union shop that had never before performed a total demolition.
Trump had directly hired Kaszycki immediately before the Bonwit Teller job to do the interior demolition on a Trump owned 57th Street building contiguous to the Bonwit site. Testimony in the suit established Don visited that site and the Bonwit Teller site to watch Kaszycki’s Polish workers.
Demolition Workers Local 95 of the Laborers’ International Union required union AND non-union laborers be paid a union wage rate of at least $11 per hour plus additional fees were to be paid into the pension and welfare funds for each worker.
Also on the site were 150-200 undocumented immigrant Polish workers, later nicknamed the “Polish Brigade”.
Those workers were paid less than half the union wage, $4-$5 an hour, for 12 hour shifts. They worked seven days a week with no overtime pay. They worked in asbestos laden air without proper safety gear. Testimony indicated Brigade workers were easily distinguishable from their union counterparts because they didn’t wear hardhats.
Some of them slept at the site. Some of them were stiffed of the minimal wages. Some of them died of asbestos related health issues before the suit was settled.
Trump took over the demolition project after two months by March, 1980, when Kaszycki was found to be bouncing wage checks. Trump-Equitable vice president Thomas Macari was tapped to run the demolition project.
The Daily News described Local 95 in 1999:
Local 95 of the Demolition Workers, was dominated for years by racketeers and is still hobbled by a contract that gives employers unchallenged control of job sites. That includes even the right to pick the union shop stewards who are supposed to look out for wage and safety violations.
200 men working on a union job aren’t invisible in any fashion and construction trade unions in Manhattan 1980 had more than their share of mob connections. Any assumption that Trump would have no idea there was underworld approval of paying workers $4-$5 per hour for 12 hour shifts with no overtime is naive. He was responsible for rushing the project and had already contracted “Fat Tony” Salerno for concrete work.
Conventional wisdom and situational ethics excuse people in construction and real estate in New York dealing with organized crime to complete projects. The use of union labor in the construction trades is nearly mandatory and, while it may have improved over the past quarter century, organized crime has traditionally been woven into the fabric of those unions.
Using non-union laborers for unionized jobs without a nod of approval from the necessary people, probably, rarely happens.
Laborers Take Trump To Court In 1983
Union member Harry Diduck brought a $1 million class action suit against Trump and his contractor for cheating the union out of the additional pension and welfare funds that were not paid, partially due to the hiring of 200 undocumented and non-union workers.
Trump lost the suit in a 16 day, non-jury trial.
Documenting the classic Trump tactic of delaying legal proceedings as long as possible to bleed the opponent of their money to force a settlement, Trump appealed when he lost and the case dragged on until it was settled in 1999.
I Don’t Recall
We are, by now, very familiar with Don’s lack of recall when called on the carpet for heinous behavior. This is nothing new, he honed his craft since at least this lawsuit. The Trump defense was, essentially, that a sub-contractor was responsible for everything, including irregularities in union matters and hiring undocumented Polish workers.
Don denied he knew anything about the undocumented workers on the job and maintained that Kaszycki did all the hiring.
But, testimony proved Don was on both sites where Kaszycki was involved and his vice president Macari was running the demolition job. Testimony in the trial showed that Macari had, on at least one occasion, brought cash to the Polish worker’s foreman (Zbigniew Goryn) for distribution to the Polish Brigade laborers that were working off the books.
Trump indicated he was personally involved with the demolition project in the press when he was explaining away demolishing the art deco facade rather than providing it, as “promised”, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. That episode perfectly represents the hubris and attitude of the man, click here for some reading.
The judge didn’t buy the deniability and found for the plaintiffs in April, 1991. As to Macari and Trump ignorance of the facts, the judge opined:
Macari was involved in every aspect of the demolition job. He knew the Polish workers were working “off the books,” that they were doing demolition work, that they were non-union, that they were paid substandard wages with no overtime pay, and that they were paid irregularly if at all.
Let’s Try The Case One More Time
Trump filed an appeal, and the case was delayed eight more YEARS until 1999. The common technique of bleeding the other side until they give up didn’t work in this case, however. Nobody can be sure if Diduck’s career as a boxer helped everybody maintain their tenacity in pursuing the case.
Some time within this period, there was an appearance from famous “phony phone call” version of Donald Trump.
He had called the lawyer representing the Polish Brigade. he caller identified himself as “John Baron” and proceeded to threaten the lawyer with a yooooge $100 million lawsuit if he kept causing Trump problems.
Just before the case was scheduled to finally go to trial again, Trump decided he’d rather settle than risk the high likelihood of losing the appeal. The original amount had grown to $4 million or more with legal fees and interest.
The terms of the settlement were sealed, as usual, although the NY Times had speculated that a final loss would have cost Trump $4 million.
Harry Diduck, the union member that originally brought the suit, died while waiting for the settlement.
The settlement terms, as usual, allow Trump the technicality of being able to brag he didn’t lose the lawsuit.
But, you and I and other normal people recognize that he did lose it in spectacular fashion.
Let’s Build The Wall
The most popular dog whistle phrase for Donald Trump about building a wall to keep horrendous Mexicans out of “our” country gets his fans hooting and hollering at any event where he mentions it. In other words, everywhere he opens his mouth.
Sure, there are immigration issues affecting the United States. Whether a wall will resolve any of those issues is arguable.
What isn’t arguable is that the current GOP candidate for President of the United States knowingly had undocumented workers in his employ, he knowingly took advantage of them with ridiculously low wages and no benefits, he worked them well beyond “regular” working hours, and those undocumented workers weren’t even supplied with minimal safety gear.
Doesn’t that, plus ongoing current practices hiring immigrant workers and extremely questionable labor practices on a Dubai project, remove any shred of credibility from Trump professing to be concerned about ANYTHING related to immigration?
Should a man that gets so much credit for “successful businesses” be worthy of that credit if illegal labor is being used to pad the bottom line and even union rules are ignored?
The answer to the first question is “yes”, the answer to the second is “no”.
Vote, but don’t vote for this guy.
While we don’t expect anybody to actually do research on this subject, there are a plethora of opportunities to do so on the Internet and, of course, in traditional libraries and government offices. It’s easy to deny something as being biased when the facts don’t fit the narrative, but before you simply deny something, you should at least do some minimal research.
New York Times
Judge Says Trump Tower Builders Cheated Union on Pension Funds (04/27/1991)
The Empire and Ego Of Donald Trump (08/07/1983)
After 15 Years in Court, Workers’ Lawsuit Against Trump Faces Yet Another Delay (06/14/1998)
The 20+ Decade Lawsuit, Illegal Immigrants and Trump’s Tower of Manhattan