[Marxism] Trump Paid Over $1 Million in Labor Settlement, Documents Reveal

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Nov 28 12:04:28 MST 2017


NY Times, Nov. 28 2017
Trump Paid Over $1 Million in Labor Settlement, Documents Reveal
By CHARLES V. BAGLI

In 1980, under pressure to begin construction on what would become his 
signature project, Donald J. Trump employed a crew of 200 undocumented 
Polish workers who worked in 12-hour shifts, without gloves, hard hats 
or masks, to demolish the Bonwit Teller building on Fifth Avenue, where 
the 58-story, golden-hued Trump Tower now stands.

The workers were paid as little as $4 an hour for their dangerous labor, 
less than half the union wage, if they got paid at all.

Their treatment led to years of litigation over Mr. Trump’s labor 
practices, and in 1998, despite frequent claims that he never settles 
lawsuits, Mr. Trump quietly reached an agreement to end a class-action 
suit over the Bonwit Teller demolition in which he was a defendant.

For almost 20 years, the terms of that settlement have remained a 
secret. But last week, the settlement documents were unsealed by Loretta 
A. Preska, a United States District Court judge for the Southern 
District, in response to a 2016 motion filed by Time Inc. and the 
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Judge Preska found that 
the public’s right to know of court proceedings in a class-action case 
was strengthened by the involvement of the “now-president of the United 
States.”

In a 21-page finding, Judge Preska wrote that “the Trump Parties have 
failed to identify any interests that can overcome the common law and 
First Amendment presumptions of access to the four documents at issue.”

On the campaign trail and as president, Mr. Trump has made curbing 
immigration one of his top priorities, seeking to close the borders to 
people from certain Muslim-majority countries and to deport immigrants 
who are here illegally. The settlement serves as a reminder that as an 
employer he relied on illegal immigrants to get a dangerous and dirty 
job done.

Katie Townsend, litigation director of the Reporters Committee, called 
the decision a major victory that goes beyond this one case. “It makes 
clear that both the First Amendment and common law rights of public 
access apply to settlement-related documents in class actions,” she said.

Lawyers for Mr. Trump were not immediately available for comment.

The documents show that Mr. Trump paid a total of $1.375 million to 
settle the case, known as Hardy v. Kaszycki, with $500,000 of it going 
to a union benefits fund and the rest to pay lawyers’ fees and expenses. 
According to the documents, one of the union lawyers involved asked the 
judge to ensure “prompt payment” from Mr. Trump, suggesting “within two 
weeks after the settlement date.”

Mr. Trump jumped in to object. “Thirty days is normal,” he said.

At the time of the settlement, the court papers note, “this case has 
been litigated for 15 years and has already required three rounds of 
discovery, extensive motion practice, a 16-day trial and two appeals.”

Trump Tower was Mr. Trump’s second solo project after leaving his 
father’s real estate company, which developed working- and middle-class 
housing in Queens and Brooklyn. But before he could build a glassy 
condominium tower on what he considered to be a “Tiffany” of locations, 
Fifth Avenue and 56th Street, Mr. Trump had to demolish a venerable 
department store, the 12-story Bonwit Teller building.

For the demolition work, Mr. Trump hired an inexperienced contractor, 
William Kaszycki of Kaszycki & Sons, for $775,000. Mr. Kaszycki 
specialized in window and job-site cleaning. His company was renovating 
an adjoining building for Bonwit Teller, where he employed undocumented 
Polish workers.

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,” Mr. Goryn said. 
“He said, ‘Those Polish guys are good, hard workers.’”

The demolition began in January 1980. It was hard, dirty work, breaking 
up concrete floors, ripping out electrical wiring and cutting pipes 
while laboring in a cloud of dust and asbestos.

A smaller group of union demolition workers, who were paid much higher 
wages and, unlike the Poles, overtime, often made fun of their Polish 
co-workers, according to the testimony of Adam Mrowiec, one of the 
Polish laborers. “They told me and my friends that we are stupid Poles 
and we are working for such low money,” he said.

In 1998, Wojciech Kozak described to The New York Times the backbreaking 
labor on the job.

“We worked in horrid, terrible conditions,” Mr. Kozak said. “We were 
frightened illegal immigrants and did not know enough about our rights.”

Today, Mr. Kozak, now 75, lives at the O’Donnell-Dempsey Senior Housing 
building in Elizabeth, N.J.

He has blue eyes and a strong handshake, but speaks through a special 
device because he had a tracheotomy for cancer. He proudly showed off 
his citizenship papers, dated Nov. 3, 1995.

Mr. Kozak still recalls the work, and seeing Mr. Trump at the site in 1980.

“We were working, 12, 16 hours a day and were paid $4 an hour,” he said. 
“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.”

But Mr. Kaszycki stopped paying the men, and they eventually took their 
complaints to a lawyer named John Szabo. Mr. Szabo went to Thomas 
Macari, a vice president of the Trump Organization, threatening to place 
a mechanic’s lien on the property if the men weren’t paid.

According to testimony, Mr. Macari began paying the men in cash himself. 
The delays and disruptions were adding to the pressure on the Trump 
Organization to meet its deadlines.

One evening, Joseph Dabrowski testified, Mr. Trump arrived on site to 
tell the workers that he was taking charge.

“I am telling you for the last time that Trump told us, ‘If you finish 
this fast and I will pay for it,’” Mr. Dabrowski recalled in court.

Still, there were problems. Mr. Szabo filed the lien, prompting Mr. 
Trump to ask for help from Daniel Sullivan, a labor consultant. Mr. 
Sullivan later testified that Mr. Trump described his “difficulties,” 
and “that he had some illegal Polish employees.”

Mr. Trump, however, testified that he did he not remember that there 
were undocumented Polish workers on the job, or signing paychecks for 
the crew. “I really still don’t know that there were illegal aliens,” 
Mr. Trump said on the stand.

Mr. Trump did, according to Mr. Szabo, have his lawyer call Mr. Szabo 
with a threat to call Immigration and Naturalization Service to have the 
men deported.

Mr. Szabo got the Labor Department to open a wages-and-hours case for 
the men, which ultimately won a judgment of $254,000 against Mr. Kaszycki.

Mr. Kaszycki had signed a contract with Local 79 of the House Wreckers 
Union. But while Mr. Kaszycki or Mr. Trump paid into the union welfare 
funds for the handful of union workers on the job, they had not done so 
for the bulk of the work force, the undocumented, nonunion Poles.

A union dissident and former boxer, Harry Diduck, brought a case in 
federal court in 1983 against Mr. Kaszycki and, eventually, Mr. Trump 
and others, claiming that Mr. Kaszycki, the union president and Mr. 
Trump had colluded to deprive the welfare funds of about $600,000.

A judge ruled that Mr. Trump was a legal employer of the Poles, but both 
sides appealed elements of his decision, with the total the welfare 
funds could get reduced to $500,000. On the eve of a second trial, Mr. 
Trump settled.

Most of the records of the litigation were placed in a federal storage 
building where Time Inc. unearthed them in 2016. But the settlement 
documents remained under seal. After Judge Preska ordered them released, 
it turned out that two of the documents had been destroyed in routine 
housecleaning at the court.

Wendy Sloan, a now-retired lawyer who represented the plaintiffs in the 
original case, had retained them, and provided them to the court. In one 
of them, Ms. Sloan noted that “in light of the unusually high profile of 
defendant Donald Trump, plaintiffs have agreed to confidentiality.”

Now that the documents have been released, Ms. Sloan said that “the 
settlement we obtained recovered 100 percent of the maximum amount 
plaintiffs could recover,” plus lawyers fees and costs.

“When you get one hundred cents on the dollar in a settlement, that is a 
great settlement,” Ms. Sloan and Lewis M. Steel, another of the 
plaintiffs’ lawyers, said in an email.




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