Politics & Policy

Donald Trump Thinks American Workers Aren’t Good Enough for the Trump Organization

Trump Tower in New York City (Spencer Platt/Getty)

The news that Donald Trump turned down 94 percent of American job applicants to his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla., in favor of foreign workers brought in under the H-2B visa program should come as a surprise to absolutely no one. Over the course of the campaign season, Trump has proven himself a liar of Clintonian proportions, and there has never been any reason to believe that he was somehow more trustworthy when it came to his rhetorical opposition to America’s foolish immigration policies — the ostensible raison d’être for his presidential campaign, one might recall. Moreover, the fact that he is more gold-obsessed than King Midas should have suggested otherwise.

And, indeed, this turns out not to be the first time that Donald Trump has undermined American workers to expand his profit margin. That has been his M.O. throughout his career.

In the early 1980s, Donald Trump was a thirtysomething real-estate up-and-comer embarking on what would, for a while, be the tallest all-glass structure in Manhattan, and what remains the centerpiece of the Trump architectural empire, his Vanity of Vanities: Trump Tower, on New York City’s Fifth Avenue. According to Barbara Res, the then-31-year-old who Trump selected to oversee Trump Tower’s construction, the Donald humbly referred to Trump Tower as “The Most Important Project in the World.”

Apparently, the first leg of the project was too important to entrust to American workers. In a lawsuit filed in Manhattan Federal Court, members of House Wreckers Local 95 alleged that, to avoid paying union employees their pension and welfare benefits, Trump (and the contractor he used for the job, Kaszycki & Sons) brought in some 200 undocumented Polish workers to demolish the Bonwit Teller building that then occupied the site of the future Trump Tower.

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Trump denied the claims, testifying that he only found out that undocumented workers were employed on the site long after the demolition. He demurred about even having visited the site. That turned out not to be true: “Testimony established that Donald Trump visited the 57th Street site and observed Kaszycki’s Polish workers, noting that they were ‘good hard workers,’” the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York wrote in its opinion in 1991. “Workers also observed Trump visiting the job site of the Bonwit Teller demolition job.” And it’s likely that he would have been able to distinguish between union and non-union workers: “The Polish workers were obvious not only in numbers but also in appearance. In contrast to the union workers the non-union, Polish workers were distinguished by the fact that most of them did not wear hard hats. In addition the Polish workers staged several very visible work stoppages because they were not being paid their wages.”

Trump-owned companies have tried to import 1,100 workers on temporary visas since 2000.

There were other good reasons to disbelieve Trump. Daniel J. Sullivan, a labor consultant and FBI informant who had advised Trump on the demolition, testified that Trump told him about undocumented workers at the site. Meanwhile, Thomas Macari, a vice president of Trump-Equitable and its manager in charge of the demolition of the Bonwit Teller Building, was on the site regularly. According to the court opinion, 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.” And, as if that were not enough, Macari had interacted extensively with John Szabo, an immigration lawyer representing undocumented workers who were making claims for unpaid wages. In court, Szabo testified that a “John Barron” of the Trump organization had called him in 1980 and threatened a $100 million lawsuit if Szabo did not drop the undocumented workers’ claims — and Trump admitted that he and another of his executives sometimes used “John Barron” as an alias in business dealings. (As ex post facto confirmation of Szabo’s claim, consider that a) bullying inconvenient individuals is a go-to Trump tactic, and b) his son by his third wife, Melania, is “Barron William Trump.”)

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The court ruled against Trump, finding that he and Kaszycki & Sons had “knowingly participated” in a scheme to get out of paying the union what it was owed. Trump won a partial victory on appeal, when the Second Circuit overturned part of the decision and referred the rest of it for “further proceedings.” But the available facts are hard to dispute.

#share#Some three decades later, nothing has changed. Last year, the Washington Post reported that Trump is using undocumented workers in the construction work on his much-feted project to convert Washington, D.C.’s Old Post Office Pavilion into a luxury hotel. “Interviews with about 15 laborers helping renovate the Old Post Office Pavilion revealed that many of them had crossed the U.S-Mexico border illegally,” the Post’s Antonio Olivo wrote in July, “before they eventually settled in the Washington region to build new lives.”

Donald Trump is not looking out for American workers. He is looking out for his own pocketbook.

Trump’s executive vice president and legal counsel, Michael Cohen, “said the question of illegal hiring practices had not arisen before at a Trump work site.” (Ahem? — see above.) He then pointed the finger at the contractor Trump has employed: “Mr. Trump, who is the 100 percent owner of the Old Post Office, hired one of the largest contractors in the world to act as the general contractor. That company is Lend Lease. They then go out and employ subcontractors to work for them. The obligation to check all workers on site is exclusive to Lend Lease. This of course assumes that the assertion regarding the employees’ status is accurate.” Of course, if history is any indication, just because Trump is employing a contractor does not mean he is unaware of the status of at least some of the workers.

Furthermore, it’s hard to imagine that Trump is utterly in the dark about his D.C. project. He apparently has spent days “beat[ing] up some contractors” employed in the development, as he boasted on Kelly Ripa’s radio show in January of last year. And he told Pat Robertson, during a visit to Regent University earlier this week, that his daughter, Ivanka, is spearheading the project, with help from his sons, Donald Jr. and Eric (the executive vice president and executive vice president, developments and acquisitions, of the Trump Organization, respectively).

#related#And, of course, there is Trump’s use and abuse of America’s visa programs, beyond Mar-a-Lago. Reuters reviewed Department of Labor data last August, and reports that Trump-owned companies have tried to import 1,100 workers on temporary visas since 2000. Jobs “that Americans won’t do” include waitress, cook, vineyard worker, golf-course superintendent, hotel manager, banquet manager, and maid. Additionally, American women apparently are not attractive enough for Donald Trump; the Trump Model Management and Trump Management Group LLC have sought to import 250 fashion models from overseas.

Conservative voters who believe that a President Trump will enforce and strengthen our immigration laws, will prosecute those who violate them, and will put the interest of American workers first are deluding themselves. Donald Trump’s professional history is one of undermining American workers — by exploiting the law wherever possible and, when that’s not enough, breaking it outright. Donald Trump is not looking out for American workers. He is looking out for his own pocketbook. That’s not going to change by putting him in the White House.

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