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.”
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.”
I am shocked that Donald Trump doesn’t care about workers despite his ridiculous rhetoric.