Editor's note: This is the second of three columns looking at the 2016 presidential nominees. The first appeared Aug. 20.
Hillary Clinton called out Donald Trump in her acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention for "stiffing" small businesses and employees who worked on his casino projects in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Her accusations, however, weren't a new revelation to readers of USA Today, which published a damning article on Trump in June.
"Donald Trump often portrays himself as a savior of the working class who will 'protect your job.' But a USA Today Network analysis found that he has been involved in more than 3,500 lawsuits over the past three decades — and a large number of those involve ordinary citizens … who say Trump or his companies have refused to pay them," the report said.
"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," the story added.
The newspaper reported that Trump companies also have 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 included 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 heating and air conditioning company to a $1 million claim from the president of a New York real estate banking firm.
On just one project, the Trump Taj Mahal casino, records released by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission in 1990 showed at least 253 subcontractors weren't paid in full or on time, including workers who installed walls, chandeliers and plumbing.
"The actions in total paint a portrait of Trump's sprawling organization frequently failing to pay small businesses and individuals, then sometimes tying them up in court and other negotiations for years. In some cases, Trump teams financially overpower and outlast much smaller opponents, draining their resources. Some just give up the fight or settle for less; some have ended up in bankruptcy or out of business altogether," the newspaper reported.
Trump and his daughter Ivanka, in an interview with USA Today, shrugged off the lawsuits and other claims. If a company or worker isn't paid fully, the Trumps say, it's because The Trump Organization was unhappy with the work.
Trump and his companies have prevailed in a number of the legal disputes over missing payments, or reached settlements where parties are forbidden to talk about the cases in public.
"However, the consistent circumstances laid out in those lawsuits and other non-payment claims raise questions about Trump's judgment as a businessman, and as a potential commander in chief," USA Today added. "The number of companies and others alleging he hasn't paid suggested that either his companies have a poor track record of hiring workers and assessing contractors, or that Trump businesses renege on contracts, refuse to pay or consistently attempt to change payment terms after work is completed."
In the interview, Trump repeatedly said the cases were "a long time ago." However, new cases are being filed even as he campaigns for president. In May, Trump Miami Resort Management LLC settled with 48 servers at his Miami golf resort over failing to pay overtime for a special event. The settlements averaged about $800 for each worker.
"Trump could have settled it right off the bat but they wanted to fight it out, that's their M.O.," Rod Hannah of Plantation, Florida, the lawyer who represented the workers, told the newspaper. "They're known for their aggressiveness and if you have the money, why not?"
Next: A case study of one company stiffed by Trump.
— John D. Foster, a Carthage resident and former editor of the Panola Watchman, is a regular contributor to the Saturday Forum. Email email@example.com