The president once paid undocumented workers as little as $4 an hour for a job that violated U.S. labor laws — and decency.
We already know that President Donald Trump’s family has no problem with immigrants, so long as they work for them. Now, we’re learning how much the president paid them back when he was just a real estate mogul.
According to documents unveiled thanks to a Time Inc. and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press motion, we know that in 1980, when the federal minimum wage was at $3.10 for all covered, nonexempt workers, Trump employed about 200 undocumented Polish workers to demolish the Bonwit Teller building on Fifth Avenue, where the Trump Tower is now located. At the time, Trump paid them as little as $4 for hard labor, The New York Times has reported.
The undocumented workers were enlisted to take on jobs that required up to 16 hours of work per day. And what is worse is that these unprotected laborers were exposed to major hazards as they were not given safety gear, such as hard hats, gloves, or masks, to perform their duties.
After the inhumane treatment of these undocumented Polish workers, Trump ended up being challenged in court for his behavior, settling a class-action labor lawsuit that went on for 15 years for $1.375 million.
While the president says he never settles lawsuits, it’s clear he lied.
Wojciech Kozak, one of the workers employed in the demolition project, said he remembers the “horrible, terrible conditions” he experienced.
“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,” the now naturalized citizen told reporters.
Prior to the settlement, Trump argued that he had hired contractor William Kaszycki for the demolition job and that he was not aware he was employing undocumented immigrants.
But according to foreman Zbignew Goryn, Trump knew what was going on, as he visited the work site and even told him that “[t]hose Polish guys are good, hard workers.”
Eventually, Kaszycki stopped paying the undocumented workers, prompting them to talk to lawyer John Szabo, who helped the men file a lawsuit against Trump. Worried his project was going to be delayed, Trump tried negotiating with the workers at first, and even threatened to call the Immigration and Naturalization Service on them.
The fact that Trump treated undocumented immigrants the way he did back in the day just goes to show that his views on immigrants willing to take on hard jobs hasn’t changed one bit. And what is worse, he now has the power to push policies that could make it even harder for the undocumented to seek justice if they are treated unfairly by employers.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst