President Trump paid out more than $1 million in the late 1990s to a group of illegal immigrants from Poland who sued him after he underpaid and overworked them in clear violation of US labor laws.
The workers, hired in 1980 to begin on the project that would eventually become Trump Tower in New York City, were paid as little as $4 per hour. Laborers were forced to work 12-hour shifts without gloves, hard hats or masks while demolishing the former Bonwit Teller building on Fifth Avenue.
Documents released by The New York Times show that Trump employed a crew of more than 200 undocumented Polish workers that were paid less than half the union wage at the time. After more than a decade of litigation over Mr. Trump’s labor practices, despite frequent claims that he never settles lawsuits, he quietly reached an agreement to end the class-action suit.
In 1998, Trump finally paid a total of $1.375 million to settle the suit, with $500,000 going to a union benefits fund and the rest covering lawyers’ fees and expenses incurred by the plaintiffs. Other details of the case were included in the document release.
“Mr. Trump would later testify that he never walked into the adjoining building or noticed the Polish workers. But a foreman on the job, Zbignew Goryn, testified that Mr. Trump visited the site, marveling to him about the Polish crew.
‘He liked the way the men were working on 57th Street. He said, Those Polish guys are good, hard workers.’”
Another former laborer working for Trump, Wojciech Kozak, described life on the Trump job site:
“We worked in horrid, terrible conditions. We were frightened illegal immigrants and did not know enough about our rights. We were working, 12, 16 hours a day and were paid $4 an hour. Because I worked with an acetylene torch, I got $5 an hour. We worked without masks. Nobody knew what asbestos was. I was an immigrant. I worked very hard.”
Trump has spent a considerable amount of time railing against the loss of “American jobs” and has publicly claimed support of an “America first” labor plan.
Apparently, that plan does not apply to him.