In 1983, a union worker filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump, alleging that the businessman had taken advantage of undocumented Polish workers responsible for demolishing the building where Trump Tower now looms.
A confidential settlement was reached in 1998 which prevented the case from going to trial, and the legal details vanished. However, last week Lewis Steel, an attorney who had worked on the case, notified Manhattan Federal Judge Loretta Preska that a former attorney involved in the case, Wendy Sloan, had found the long lost documents.
“She has the missing transcript and brief,” Steel wrote to Preska. “Ms. Sloan informs me that at all times these documents have remained in her possession and that she kept them confidential. We know of no privacy reason why these documents should not be unsealed.”
The records were previously thought to have been destroyed due to state retention policies, but now that they have been discovered, a lower court judge might order them to be made available to the public. The information inside these documents would not only shed light on why this particular case was settled before trial, but paint a more complex and hypocritical picture of Trump's immigration policies.
Trump has long denied ever using undocumented workers to build his empire, but this case indicates that this is potentially yet another bold-faced lie. Sen. Marco Rubio used the decades-old lawsuit as a line of attack during a debate in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, stating that Trump "had to pay a million dollars or so in judgement." While the exact amount paid out in the settlement remains unclear, some details of the lawsuit were compiled by Politifact from numerous media sources.
According to reports, a union worker sued his boss, Trump, and Trump's contractor in 1983, claiming that they had cheated union workers out of pension and welfare funds by hiring undocumented Polish workers for inhumanely cheap labor. The Polish immigrants worked exhausting 12-hour shifts, seven days a week, for a measly $4 to $5 hourly wage. When they complained about unsafe working conditions, lack of overtime pay, or not being paid at all, Trump allegedly threatened to have them deported.
In court in 1990, Trump testified that he had not been aware that the workers were undocumented and blamed the labor violations on his contractor. However, labor consultant Dan Sullivan testified very differently, stating that Trump had not only informed him of the difficulties the Polish workers were giving him, but had actively sought to hire them at the beginning of the project.
A year later, a judge ruled in the union's favor, citing that Trump "knew that the Polish workers were doing demolition work" and that his company had led a "conspiracy" to cheat the workers. Trump appealed the decision and the case dragged on until the settlement was reached almost a decade later.
Last month, the 2nd Circuit United States Court of Appeals overturned an attempt to keep documents pertaining to the case a secret and wrote that, "Certain types of documents should be publicly available."
According to Newsweek, Time magazine and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press have both been persistent about obtaining the documents due to the many questions they raise.
This is shaping up to be a potentially big reveal that could confirm the public's suspicions surrounding the president's business ethics. Despite Trump's vendetta against undocumented immigrants for "stealing" American jobs, he's exactly the kind of man who would hire them over American workers in order to exploit their vulnerability.