Union Bosses Make Big Bucks (But Complaint When Corporate Leaders Do the Same)

It seems like every month a different labor union publishes the pay disparity between the average low-wage employee and CEOs of mega companies, i.e. the car washer vs. the owner of a car company, or the janitor vs. the top guy of a global real estate investment firm. The examples often cited by unions are like comparing apples to oranges – different industries, different geographies, and do not take into account things that boost CEO pay like performance incentive and stock offerings (which could be worthless in the future). Thankfully, the Workplace Fairness Institute publishes a much more reliable comparison. According to it, presidents of the following unions made this much money last year:

  • Communication Workers $163,904
  • SEIU (Service Workers) $282,281
  • AFL-CIO $294,537
  • Teamsters $386,344
  • UNITE HERE $316,825
  • UFCW (Food Workers) $354,568
  • IBEW (Electrical Workers) $435,596
  • UAW (Auto Workers) $184,159

Now, anyone who deals with unions on a regular basis knows what I’m about to say: these numbers are the bare minimum pay that must be reported. Unions are notorious for hiding pay. For example, union leaders get paid to sit on union committees, union boards, union charities, etc. While Richard Trumka’s AFL-CIO salary was $295,000 last year, he likely made several times that much through hidden payments and perks. Don’t forget how powerful he was over the last 8 years – flying private jets to visit the White House reportedly more than any other person during Obama’s terms.

Workplace Fairness Institute compares apples to apples:

         Union             President’s Salary             Average Represented Worker Salary

  • SEIU                         $282,281                                $22,930     Child care
  • SEIU                         $282,281                                $23,600     Home health
  • Teamsters               $386,344                                $31,000     Bus driver
  • UNITE HERE           $316,825                               $21,990     Casino dealer
  • UNITE HERE           $316,825                               $23,830     Housekeeper
  • IBEW                        $435,596                               $56,650     Electrician

Unions are also quick to report when the CEO of a major corporation lives in a gated community, flies on the corporate plane, or generally spends money on anything non-union related. Workplace Fairness Institute publishes the lavishness of the lives of union leaders that are paid exclusively through members’ dues money – members who, as shown above, make below the national income average. It is safe to assume that rank and file union members who finance their leaders’ extravagance, do not attend the below swanky hotels and restaurants.

  • UFCW spent $137,348 at MGM, Las Vegas for a Meeting
  • Teamsters spent $93,210 at Bally’s Casino-Hotel Las Vegas for undisclosed
  • UFCW spent $92,133 at Bally’s Casino-Hotel, Las Vegas for Meetings – Political
  • SEIU spent $47,796 at Renaissance Brussels Hotel for Support for Organizing
  • UFCW spent $38,360 at The Mayflower Renaissance, DC for Lobbying
  • Teamsters spent $15,527 at Westin Beach Resort Ft. Lauderdale for undisclosed
  • SEIU spent $14,740 at InterContinental Hotel Hong Kong for Support for Organizing
  • UAW spent $10,013 at Greektown Casino for undisclosed
  • UAW spent $6,079 at Joe’s Seafood, Washington DC for a Meeting

These are the raw numbers collected through mandatory disclosures called Form LM-2 that unions must file each year. Interpret them as you wish.

Matt Austin owns Austin Legal, LLC, a boutique law firm based in Ohio that limits its representation to employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can call Matt at (614) 285-5342 or email him at Matt@MattAustinLaborLaw.com.