As Workers at Trump's Taj Mahal Casino Go on Strike, a Look at Trump's Long History of Labor Abuse

July 05, 2016


Wayne Barrett

investigative reporter who wrote for The Village Voice for 37 years. His 1991 biography of Donald Trump was just republished as an ebook with the title of Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Deals, the Downfall, the Reinvention.

About a thousand housekeepers, cooks, bellmen and servers at Trump’s Taj Mahal Atlantic City casino went on strike on Friday and through the weekend demanding reinstatement of health, pension and other benefits eliminated during 2014 bankruptcy proceedings. This is only the latest in decades of labor disputes Donald Trump has faced at his hotels, casinos and resorts. Investigative reporter Wayne Barrett has been investigating Donald Trump for decades and says, "Trump’s pathway to success is littered with bodies."


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We conclude our conversation with Trump biographer Wayne Barrett, who has tracked the Republican presumptive presidential nominee for decades. His biography of Trump has been republished as an ebook; it’s called Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Deals, the Downfall, the Reinvention. Juan González and I interviewed him last week at his home in Brooklyn. I asked Wayne about those harmed by Trump’s business practices, from the Polish workers who built Trump Tower to the investors in the casino he never built in Mexico.

WAYNE BARRETT: His pathway to success is littered with bodies. You know, I hear him talk about the thousands of Latinos he’s employed. You know, I don’t know what he’s talking about. I’m sure, Juan, you’re aware there are almost no Latinos in Atlantic City. You couldn’t employ Latinos in Atlantic—there’s a lot of black people there, but it has no significant Latino population. I was in and out of his casinos all the time. I never saw many Latino workers. I don’t know where these thousands of Latinos that have supposedly worked for him have worked for him, but it wouldn’t be Atlantic City, and I don’t know where else he ever employed thousands of people.

And certainly, the Taj, for example—just talk about the Taj, which was, at the time, you know, this is—he had this incredible downfall where his personal life—this is when he dumps his wife and children, and goes with Marla. At the same time, when he was on this fast track, '87, ’88—'88 was the disaster year, you know, where he makes one bad judgment after another. So, he is trying to get the City of New York, Ed Koch, to support the building of the tallest skyscraper in the history of the country on the West Side Yards for NBC headquarters, and at the same time he takes on the Taj, which will be the largest casino in the history of the world. So he doesn’t get the approvals from Koch, so he doesn’t build the NBC tower on the West Side, but he goes ahead and tries to build the Taj. And he so overleverages everything—junk bonds, adding to cost all over the place, just one bobble after another. It was just—so it was doomed from the day it opened. It could never make the payments. It could never make the bond payments. And so they stiffed all the bondholders. But they also stiffed all the small contractors in Atlantic City, you know, guys—you know, mom-and-pop shops who did all the work there. I used to walk through it while it was under construction, and the place was just filled with contractors. I talked to many of them. And they didn’t know they were all going to get stiffed in the end, but they got 20 cents, 30 cents on the dollar or nothing. And he just stiffed so many of them. So, small businesses went out of business.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the Polish workers at Trump Tower?

WAYNE BARRETT: The Polish workers at Trump Tower became a kind of famous case. And the Bonwit Teller building was part of the site. And this—you know, when you look at that site, this is the genius of Donald Trump, how he managed to assemble that site. You know, I don’t think he can find a better site in America, maybe in the world, than the location that he had. So, that was part of his genius at the time, was assembling these kinds of sites and making these acquisitions. But he was completely unconcerned about the workers who worked in the demolition of the Bonwit Teller building, who literally slept there. And they were all immigrant Polish workers, hundreds of them, many of whom got very sick as a result of working on that site. He’s always tried to put some distance between, but his office was right across the street. His office was—you know, how he could claim that he didn’t know what was going on in that site, which has been his claim—and there’s no question but that these workers were abused to an enormous degree.


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