Donald Trump paid more than $1.3 million in labor settlements in 1998 after he was accused of using undocumented workers for the construction of Trump Tower, according to newly unsealed legal documents obtained by the New York Times.
A district court judge ordered the documents to be publicly released, showing that the case was settled for $1.37 million, according to the New York Times. The decision to unseal the settlement documents was made after Time Inc. and the Reporters Committee filed a motion in 2016.
Judge Preska ruled that the documents should be released because of the involvement of the “now-president of the United States.”
Reports from the time suggest that Trump hired contractor William Kaszycki of Kaszycki & Sons to demolish the Bonwit Teller, which would ultimately be replaced by Trump Tower.
In turn, the contractor employed around 200 undocumented immigrants to demolish the building. According to the New York Times, they were paid as little as $4 an hour, less than half the union wage, and worked 12-hour shifts without vital safety equipment.
Wojciech Kozak, one of the Polish workers, had this to say about the conditions at the time:
“We worked in horrid, terrible conditions. We were frightened illegal immigrants and did not know enough about our rights.”
Now 75 and a legal citizen, Kozak told The New York Times this week:
“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.”
Kaszycki eventually stopped paying the men, and a lawyer named John Szabo threatened to place a mechanic’s lien on the property, which would have allowed the workers to sue the property owner if they were not paid. Thomas Macari, a vice president of the Trump Organization, then began paying the men in cash.
Workers testified that after they started being paid by Macari, Donald Trump arrived at the site to say he was taking over. “I am telling you for the last time that Trump told us, ‘If you finish this fast and I will pay for it,’” Joseph Dabrowski testified in court.
Szabo still filled the lien against Trump and Kaszycki, in a different case from the one unsealed this week, with the latter being ordered to pay $254,000. In that case, Trump said that he did not remember the workers were undocumented, or signing paychecks for them. Though Szabo alleges that he received a call from Trump's lawyer threatening to have the men deported.
Zbignew Goryn testified that Trump had visited the site and acknowledged that the crew was Polish.
“He liked the way the men were working on 57th Street,” Goryn said. “He said, ‘Those Polish guys are good, hard workers.’”
In 1983, unionist Harry Diduck filled a case claiming that Kaszycki and Trump had colluded to deprive the union welfare funds of about $600,000 by not paying union benefits for the Polish workers. A judge ruled that Trump was a legal employer of the Poles, and on the eve of a second trial, Trump settled.