Unions: Bloated Salaries at the Top
These are the 10 largest unions, noting the number of employees who earn more than $200,000, leadership salaries, and campaign contributions to federal candidates in 2009-2010.
Union: National Education Association
Membership: 3.2 million
Assets: $216 million
The NEA, representing most of the nation’s teachers, has 31 headquarters officers and employees who earn over $200,000. The president, Dennis Van Roekel, received $397,721 in salary and benefits. Of the $3.7 million NEA spent on political activities in the last election cycle, 98 percent went to Democratic candidates. The NEA has 98,000 members in Wisconsin. Before taking the helm in 2008, Van Roekel received pay increases averaging more than 4 percent a year as NEA vice president. In 2009, public school teachers were paid a national average of $54,319 and received raises ranging from 2 percent to 4 percent over the previous five years.
Union: Service Employees International Union
Membership: 1.8 million
Assets: $187 million
The SEIU, whose membership has increased in recent years, has been organizing hospital, home care and nursing home workers, along with local and state government employees, janitors and security officers. The union has nine headquarters officers and employees who earn over $200,000. The former president, Andy Stern, was paid $306,388 in salary and benefits from the union in 2009. In his final year, Stern got a 5 percent pay boost, which came on the heels of the union growing by more than 88,000 members. Stern resigned in 2010 and was replaced by Mary Kay Henry, formerly the executive vice president. Over the past two years, SEIU gave almost $2 million to Democratic candidates and $8,500 to Republicans. It has 18,000 members in Wisconsin.
Union: United Food & Commercial Workers
Membership: 1.3 million
Assets: $157 million
The UFCW, whose members work in meatpacking, food processing and retail grocery stores, has 17 headquarters officers and employees who earn over $200,000. The president, Joseph T. Hansen, received $360,737 in pay and benefits in 2009. Of the $1.9 million the union donated to political candidates over the past two years, 99 percent of it went to Democrats. The union drew criticism from members in 2004 for paying outgoing president Douglas Dority $709,000 in salary and benefits and for keeping retired officers on the payroll with six-figure salaries. At the time, more than 250 UFCW employees across the country were being paid more than $100,000.
Union: International Brotherhood of Teamsters
Membership: 1.3 million
Assets: $175 million
The Teamsters, whose origins date to the horse- and mule-team drivers of the late 1800s, represents truck drivers and a wide array of blue-collar and government workers. Eight headquarters officers and employees received more than $200,000 in 2009.
The president, James P. Hoffa, was paid $362,869 in pay and benefits. Over the past two years, the Teamsters have donated $2.3 million to Democratic candidates and $46,500 to Republicans. Racketeering charges were filed against the union in 1989 after a Justice Department investigation that accused the Teamsters of being a “wholly owned subsidiary of organized crime.” Since 1992, the Teamsters have been overseen by an Independent Review Board.
Union: American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees
Membership: 1.5 million
Assets: $97 million
AFSCME, one of the fastest growing unions in the United States, was founded in Wisconsin almost 80 years ago. At union headquarters in Washington, 10 officers and employees receive more than $200,000 a year. Gerald McEntee, who was first elected union president in 1981, was paid $479,328 in salary and benefits in 2009. Over the past decade, his salary has increased at almost 4 percent a year. Over the past two years, AFSCME has donated $2.3 million to Democratic candidates and $13,000 to Republicans. In the 2010 elections in Wisconsin, AFSCME gave almost $83,888 to Democratic candidates. Half that amount went to the campaign of Tom Barrett, whose top 10 donors were unions. Barrett lost to Republican Scott Walker, who promised during the campaign to take on the organized labor if elected.
Union: Laborers’ International Union of North America
Assets: $134 million
The Laborers represent mostly construction workers in 500 locals in the U.S. The headquarters in Washington has 18 officers and employees who earn more than $200,000 a year, including 11 who earn more than $300,000. Terence O’Sullivan, union president since 2000, received $618,000 in salary and benefits in 2009. Of the $1.7 million donated to political candidates over the past two years, 95 percent went to Democrats. In 2006, the Laborers broke from the AFL-CIO to join a new, rival labor federation. In 2010, the Laborers rejoined the AFL-CIO.
Union: American Federation of Teachers
Assets: $115 million
AFT is the smaller of the two teacher unions and also represents school support staff, higher education faculty and staff, health care professionals and state and municipal employees. At AFT’s headquarters in Washington, nine officers and employees earn more than $200,000 a year. Randi Weingarten, who was elected president in 2008, received $428,284 in salary and benefits. Of the $2.4 million donated to political candidates in the past two years, the union gave all but $10,000 to Democrats. In 1998, a proposal to merge the AFT and the much larger NEA was rejected by NEA members.
Union: International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
Assets: $482 million
IBEW represents electricians, linemen and other public utility employees, along with some computer, telecommunications and broadcasting workers. Sixteen of the IBEW’s officers and employees in Washington earned more than $200,000 in 2009. Edwin D. Hill, the union president since 2001, received $375,767 in pay and benefits. Hill and other top officials received salary increases averaging at least 4 percent each in the past several years, even as membership declined by 5 percent. Membership peaked at about 1 million in 1972. The IBEW says a chief reason for the decline was a loss of union jobs when the Bell System was broken up and deregulation of the utility industry.
Union: International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
Assets: $147 million
IAM, which grew out of a secret meeting of 19 machinists in a Georgia rail yard in 1888, represents machinists and aerospace workers in over 200 industries. At the union’s Maryland headquarters near Washington, 34 officers and employees earn over $200,000 in salary and benefits. Robert Buffenbarger, who became president in 1997, received $284,975. Over the past two years, the IAM donated $1.98 million to Democratic candidates and $34,000 to Republicans. Popularly known as the machinists union, IAM is affiliated with the AFL-CIO. Its membership jumped in the 1950s and 1960s with the growth of the airlines and aerospace industries. More than 1 million belonged to the union in 1968. In the early 1970s, membership began declining, a change the union blames on layoffs in the defense industry.
Union: United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America
Assets: $1.2 billion
The UAW, founded in 1935 by automobile plant workers, currently represents workers at General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, along with workers in the aerospace and agriculture industries. None of the officers or employees at the UAW headquarters in Detroit earn over $200,000 a year. Ronald Gettelfinger, who resigned as UAW president in 2010, was paid $173,065 in salary and benefits. Elected to replace Gettelfinger was Bob King, a bargaining member at Ford’s plant in Dearborn, Mich. Over the past two years, the UAW donated more than $1.6 million to political candidates, and all but $3,000 went to Democrats. Union membership hit 1.5 million in the late 1970s, but a decline in the U.S. auto industry and opening of non-union plants in the South took its toll on membership. The UAW’s success over the years at negotiating higher pay and benefits, including one of the wealthiest pension and health plans for retired autoworkers, was blamed by domestic automakers and conservatives in Congress for the industry’s crisis in 2008 and 2009.