Cute kid mowing White House lawn — for free — only reminds us that Trump stiffs his contractors
An 11-year-old boy named Frank Giaccio — who has never made fun of disabled people in front of thousands of drunk rubes or lied about refusing to let a girl with plastic-surgery cooties into his clubhouse — nevertheless thought it would be an honor to mow his hero Donald Trump’s lawn. So young Frank wrote Trump a letter asking for the gig.
On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the kid would get his wish:
"He'll work with the groundskeeping crew here at the White House and will help cut the grass at the Rose Garden. The president is committing to keeping the American dream alive for kids, like Frank, and we're all looking forward to having him here."
Sanders also said little Frank had even offered to cut the grass “at no charge.”
There you go, kid. Now you’ve found Trump’s wheelhouse: Exploiting the labor of naive, desperate poor people who most likely won’t ever get paid.
Today, the White House followed through on its promise, but as cute photo ops go, this one is a little dangerous for Trump. It just reminds people of some of Trump’s most unsavory qualities. It’s like if Ted Cruz bought a white windowless van and painted clowns and ice cream cones all over the side of it. It’s not technically illegal or anything, but you’re already skating on pretty thin ice there, Senator.
With respect to Trump, this can only remind the electorate that he’s consistently screwed over people who have done honest work for him in good faith.
An astonishing story in USA Today last year detailed the carnage Trump’s companies have left behind in the form of lawsuits, liens, and distressed small businesses:
At least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of liens, judgments, and other government filings reviewed by the USA TODAY NETWORK, document people who have accused Trump and his businesses of failing to pay them for their work. Among them: a dishwasher in Florida. A glass company in New Jersey. A carpet company. A plumber. Painters. Forty-eight waiters. Dozens of bartenders and other hourly workers at his resorts and clubs, coast to coast. Real estate brokers who sold his properties. And, ironically, several law firms that once represented him in these suits and others.
Trump’s companies have also been cited for 24 violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act since 2005 for failing to pay overtime or minimum wage, according to U.S. Department of Labor data. That includes 21 citations against the defunct Trump Plaza in Atlantic City and three against the also out-of-business Trump Mortgage LLC in New York. Both cases were resolved by the companies agreeing to pay back wages.
In addition to the lawsuits, the review found more than 200 mechanic’s liens — filed by contractors and employees against Trump, his companies or his properties claiming they were owed money for their work — since the 1980s. The liens range from a $75,000 claim by a Plainview, N.Y., air conditioning and heating company to a $1 million claim from the president of a New York City real estate banking firm. On just one project, Trump’s Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, records released by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission in 1990 show that at least 253 subcontractors weren’t paid in full or on time, including workers who installed walls, chandeliers and plumbing.
Of course, this created barely a blip in the news cycle because hackers later leaked John Podesta’s creamy risotto recipe.
Even worse — and more assiduously ignored — was the story about undocumented Polish workers who cleared rubble away from the site of what is now Trump Tower.
According to Time, “the men were putting in 12-hour shifts with inadequate safety equipment at subpar wages that their contractor paid sporadically, if at all. A lawyer for many of the Poles demanded that the workers be paid or else he would serve Trump with a lien on the property. One Polish worker even went to Trump's office to ask him for money in person, according to sworn testimony and a deposition filed under oath in a court case.”
Trump claimed he had no idea undocumented workers were at the site, but as we all know by now, Trump denying something essentially creates an epistemic certainty that it’s true:
After Senator Marco Rubio raised the issue of undocumented Polish workers during a Republican primary debate this year, Trump described himself as removed from the problem. "I hire a contractor. The contractor then hires the subcontractor," he said. "They have people. I don't know. I don't remember, that was so many years ago, 35 years ago."
But thousands of pages of documents from the case, including reams of testimony and sworn depositions reviewed by TIME, tell a different story. Kept for more than a decade in 13 boxes in a federal judiciary storage unit in Missouri, the documents contain testimony that Trump sought out the Polish workers when he saw them on another job, instigated the creation of the company that paid them and negotiated the hours they would work. The papers contain testimony that Trump repeatedly toured the site where the men were working, directly addressed them about pay problems and even promised to pay them himself, which he eventually did.
So yes, it’s fair to say that Trump is “committing to keeping the American dream alive for kids, like Frank,” if the American dream means doing your work in good faith and maybe eventually getting paid if you hire a lawyer and threaten to sue your boss.
Welcome to Trump’s America, son. Good to see you’re getting a taste of those poverty wages now. There’s more where that came from.