In this photo taken Dec. 21, 2106, the Trump International Hotel in Washington. 
Alex Brandon

Why Trump should avoid conversations about electrical workers

Donald Trump, seemingly out of the blue, published a tweet this afternoon that read, “I’ve employed thousands of Electrical Workers. They will be voting for me!” Putting aside for now whether the boast was true or not, why in the world did the president make such a pronouncement?

Probably because of former Vice President Joe Biden’s speech today to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’ (IBEW) Construction and Maintenance Conference. It didn’t occur to Trump to provide context: he simply saw the news and reacted reflexively, with the latest in a series of self-indulgent, self-aggrandizing missives.

But in this case, the president picked a subject he probably should’ve avoided. Remember this USA Today report from January 2017?

Electricians who rushed work on President Trump’s newly opened hotel in Washington, D.C., say they are owed more than $2 million, and the contractor has filed a lawsuit to force payment.

Freestate Electrical filed the suit in D.C. Superior Court alleging Trump’s company asked for a rush order on the hotel before its soft opening in September and the grand opening shortly before Election Day to complete fire alarm and electrical work. Trump’s company paid $15 million on the contract, but withheld payment on the final installment, the lawsuit says.

“Acceleration of Freestate’s work required Freestate’s crews to work nonstop, seven days per week, 10 to 14 hours per day, for nearly 50 consecutive days,” the lawsuit says, adding the extra work was at the Trump company’s direction so that it could open before the election and get positive press coverage.

The lawsuit alleges Trump’s company agreed to pay one-third of the remaining bill, which the electricians deem “unreasonable.” The electrical company formerly filed a lien on the hotel for unpaid work.

It was part of a larger pattern with Trump: he’d hire contractors, benefit from their services, and then refuse to pay their full invoices. When the companies howled, Trump would offer to pay a fraction of what he owed, telling them that if they refused, they’d have to take it to court – taking on legal costs some of these contractors couldn’t afford.

The Republican pulled this trick dozens of times, including to electrical workers.

It’s why, as CNBC’s Christina Wilkie noted today, the IBEW announced publicly in 2016 that Trump’s business had a poor record related to electrical workers.

All of which brings us back to Trump’s boast this afternoon: “I’ve employed thousands of Electrical Workers. They will be voting for me!”

He’s true that’s he’s employed thousands of electrical workers; if Trump is counting on them to support him, he may want to lower his expectations.