Sunday, November 27, 2016

Donald Trump's "Polish Brigade"

...During the campaign, Trump targeted disaffected, alienated blue-collar workers, chafing under the effects of globalization and lingering damage from the financial collapse of 2008. “The Donald” also, of course, made expelling illegal immigrants a cornerstone of his campaign. There could be no better balance in which to hang the integrity of President-elect Donald Trump than to examine the chapter Johnson titled “The Polish Brigade.” (The Making of Donald Trump; pp. 69-76.)

When demolishing the old Bonwit Teller building in New York City to make way for one of his signature projects, Trump not only broke a promise to salvage the valuable art deco piece at the building’s entrance (providing disingenuous responses to criticism about this), but employed illegal Polish immigrants to dismantle the structure. The abuse to which Trump subjected those immigrants is striking and bodes poorly for those elements of “Middle America” who supported him during the election.

The “Polish Brigade” were not given even elementary working tools, nor basic safety equipment such as hard hats. They worked long hours at very low pay under horrible working conditions and were often not paid at all, until they threatened a top Trump assistant, Thomas Macari.

“Instead of hiring an experienced demolition contractor, Trump chose Kaszycki & Sond Contractors, a window washing business owned by a Polish emigre. Upward of two hundred men began demolishing the building in midwinter 1980. The men worked without hard hats. They lacked facemasks, even though asbestos–known to cause incurable cancers–swirled all around them. They didn’t have goggles to protect their eyes from the bits of concrete and steel that sometimes flew through the air like bullets. The men didn’t have power tools either; they brough down the twelve-story building with sledgehammers. . . .

. . . . The demolition workers were not American citizens, but ‘had recently arrived from Poland,’ a federal court later determined. The court also found that ‘they were undocumented and worked ‘off the books.’ No payroll records were kept, no Social Security or other taxes were withheld and they were not paid in accordance with wage laws. They were told they would be paid $4.00 or in some cases $5.00 an hour for working 12-hour shifts seven days a week. In fact, they were paid irregularly and incompletely.’ . . .

. . . . Fed up that their paychecks kept bouncing, some of the workers corralled Thomas Macari, Trump’s personal representative they showed him to the edge of one of the higher floors and asked if he would like them to hang him over the side. The workerrs, likely hungry, demanded their pay. Otherwise, no work.

When Macari told his boss what had happened, Trump placed a panicked telephone call to Daniel Sullivan–a labor fixer, FBI informant, suspect in the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa, and Trump’s personal negotiator for the Grand Hyatt contract with the hotel workers’ union.

‘Donald told me he was having some difficulties,’ Sullivan later testified, ‘and he admitted to me that–seeking my advice–he had some illegal Polish employees on the job. . . .

. . . .There is no record of any federal, state, or city safety inspector filing a report during the demolition. In a 1990 Trenton restaurant interview. I asked Sullivan how a project of this size could have been erected in the heart of Manhattan without attracting government job safety inspectors. Sullivan just looked at me. When I widened my eyes to make clear that I wanted an explicitly answer, he said, ‘You know why.’ When I persisted, anticipating that Sullivan might specify bribes to inspectors, he said that unions and concrete suppliers were not the only areas where Trump’s lawyer, Roy Cohn, had influence. . . . ” (The Making of Donald Trump; pp. 70-72.)...



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