President Donald Trump hired hundreds of undocumented Polish immigrants to demolish a New York City building in 1980 and paid them as little as $4 an hour without providing proper safety equipment to do the job, court documents show.
The workers and their contractor, William Kaszycki of Kaszycki & Sons, sued Trump for unfair labor practices in 1983. After litigation dragged on for 15 years, Trump ultimately paid $1.375 million to settle the case.
“We worked in horrid, terrible conditions,” Wojciech Kozak, one of the undocumented Polish workers at the demolition site, told the Times. “We were frightened illegal immigrants and did not know enough about our rights.”
The settlement was kept under seal for nearly two decades. But last week, in response to a motion filed by Time Inc. and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, U.S. District Court Judge Loretta A. Preska ordered the documents be made public.
“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,” Preska ruled.
The New York Times first reported on the settlement.
Trump had sought to demolish the famed Bonwit Teller building on Fifth Avenue to make way for his 58-story Trump Tower.
According to court testimonies, Trump took notice of Kaszycki and his crew of 200 undocumented Polish workers when he visited a worksite near Bonwit Teller.
“He liked the way the men were working on 57th Street,” Zbignew Goryn, a foreman at the site, testified. “[Trump] said, ‘Those Polish guys are good, hard workers.'”
Trump eventually hired Kaszycki for the job and the demolition began in January 1980. Many of the workers later testified that they would often work 12- to 16-hour shifts without gloves, hard hats, or masks. The men had to break concrete floors, rip out electrical wires, cut pipes and work in an area filled with dust and asbestos.
Trump also hired a smaller crew of unionized demolition workers that teased their nonunion Polish counterparts. “They told me and my friends that we are stupid Poles and we are working for such low money,” Adam Mrowiec, one of the Polish workers, later testified.
The suit came about after Kaszycki stopped paying the men. The workers eventually took their complaints to an attorney named John Szabo, who brought the issue straight to Thomas Macari, a vice president of the Trump Organization. Macari then began paying the men in cash in order to avoid a shutdown of the worksite, according to the Times.
Trump later testified he did not know “that there were illegal aliens” working at his demolition site, an assertion refuted by Szabo, who said Trump threatened to have the men deported through his lawyer.
Szabo eventually got the Labor Department to open a wages-and-hours case for the workers that ended up winning them a $254,000 judgment against Kaszycki. Another worker, Harry Diduck, later brought a case against Kaszycki in federal court, where a judge ruled that Trump was the legal employer of the undocumented Polish workers.
After years of litigation, three rounds of discovery, extensive motion practice, a 16-day trial and two appeals, Trump decided to settle.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump frequently boasted that, while he had been sued many times, he had ” never settled.” He also campaigned extensively on calls to hire American workers while cracking down on illegal immigration.