“Union bosses make hundreds of thousands of dollars annually”

Last June, Lynn Woolsey became president of the very liberal Americans for Democratic Action, and in her acceptance speech she rhetorically asked the audience:

Who believes that organized labor is the foundation of the American middle class, one of our most powerful forces for economic security and upward mobility? 

Upward mobility? Hmm. Well, I suppose one can say that about the organized labor bosses, many of whom, according to this article, have pay grades beyond those of  the “middle class”:

Salaries for the 10 largest unions’ bosses range from $173,000 for the United Auto Workers’ Bob King to $618,000 for Terence O’Sullivan, the president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka makes about $283,000 per year. Gerald McEntee, the president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), makes $480,000. The AFSCME stands to lose the most from any of the governors’ budget victories, as it’s currently the nation’s powerhouse public sector union, with around 1.5 million members nationwide.

The article points out:

A new report from the left-leaning Center for Public Integrity (CPI) shows union bosses would stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal salaries and Democrats would lose millions of dollars in campaign donations if governors in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and other states win their budget battles. The new CPI report calls into question union bosses’ and Democratic lawmakers’ true motives in those states, showing that they’re possibly more concerned about losing revenue and personal salary than they are with collective bargaining rights for public sector workers.

So, not only do union bosses have a personal financial stake in the moves by states to lessen union power, but so do politicians. Lynn Woolsey is one of those politicians who has collected considerable contributions from union PACs in her career. Recall these two previous posts of mine: Lynn Woolsey and SEIU and More about unions supporting the Woolsey campaign…. The latter post noted that in 2009-2010 (up to that point of course), 13 of her Top 20 contributors (65%) were unions.

Now perhaps, Rep. Woolsey will retire in 2012 and the issue of who contributes to her political campaigns will not longer be of interest and concern. Nevertheless, when Rep. Woolsey claims herself a champion of the middle class, her ties to union leadership (for it is the bosses of organized labor that decide which politicians receive campaign assistance, not the rank and file) should give us pause. Who really is she “working” for? The men and women in the labor force who really are the solid middle class? Or the high-salaried bosses (some of whom don’t even work an hour for “public servant” salaries they collect — see *table below) who pass out the laborers’ dues to open-handed politicos?


* source of this table:

Big “Labor and politicians across the United States have transferred union costs to taxpayers.  For example, SEIU Local 444 (The Sanitation Officers Association, see related snow  slowdown stories) has six full-time union officials who are paid full-time city benefits and salary, yet work 0.00% of the time for New York City.  These Sanitation Officers are working on everything but New York City business – including political activities and golf outings – all on the taxpayers’ dime.”


About district6voter

A concerned Northern California citizen who believes Representative Lynn Woolsey ought to be replaced in November, 2010.
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2 Responses to “Union bosses make hundreds of thousands of dollars annually”

  1. Sierra Peterson says:

    Why is it necessary to choose between the interests of labor unions and the private sector? According to this article, a recent NY times poll found that 60% of Americans oppose weakening bargaining rights of public sector unions. One reason may be that labor unions have a positive effect on overall wages because they force private employers to be competitive about what benefits they offer their employees. Besides, there are other ways for states to balance their budgets that don’t reduce the living standards of working class Americans. North Dakota, for example, has formed a state bank which cuts out the exorbitant fees of paying Wall Street investment bankers to manage their accounts. This is the only state to have its own bank and also the only state that currently has a budget surplus.

    You have raised an important point about how far removed union leaders are from their membership. It’s hard to believe that someone with a $600,000 salary couldn’t be influenced by outside interests. But what this demonstrates is the need for a truly participatory democratic union structure, not the need to do away with union bargaining powers all together. It is a myth to think that standard neoliberal policies such as slashing pensions, reducing wages and turning a blind eye to unsafe working conditions can ever be accomplished without the need for regulatory powers that would supersede guidelines created by a grass roots democracy. In literally every single country where these policies have been implemented it has taken the reinforcement of both police and military to crush dissent. Hopefully the US will not join the long list of developing countries where human rights abuses have become the standard for enforcing these decisions.

    You may have heard that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has threatened to send the National Guard out to break up demonstrators who take issue with his union-busting legislation (see the first link). Is Walker merely a fiscal conservative looking out for the interests of private sector employees? Not exactly. Some of his main campaign contributors include the multi-billionaire Koch brothers, who used front organizations to funnel millions into his campaign. The Koch brothers own Koch industries, which is the second largest privately held company in the US. They recently hosted the Billionaire’s Summit, a private meeting of conservative politicians and multinational CEOs that was guarded by police in riot gear. What was the main topic of discussion? Dismantling the welfare state. The Koch brothers are also known to be one of the main private donors involved in getting the Tea Party movement off the ground. Hmm.

    • We are not going to agree on these issues, and I don’t have the time to engage in lengthy debate anyway, so I will not go into a lot of detail here. However, as there is breaking news in Wisconsin (http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-03-09/wisconsin-senate-passes-curbs-on-public-union-bargaining.html), I will link to several other articles regarding public sector unions which I think are very useful in the argument against public-sector unions:




      I do believe in differentiating between public-sector and private-sector unions. Although there are problems with the private-sector unions (as you note also), there is more of an argument to be made for them (or, at least there was in times past). However, those who work in the public sector have, in effect, bosses who in turn owe their jobs to their employees. A guy who works for a private timber company doesn’t vote for his boss unless he happens to have a share in the business too. But if that guy works for a city, for example, he and his fellow workers vote for their bosses (the city council). If a city employee union goes out on strike, who gets blamed? The city council. The council members want to keep their seats, so they do whatever they can to keep the city workers happy. It is an accelerating circle of increasing salaries and benefits, etc. that we can’t afford anymore. Actually, we never really could, but the public has been asleep at the wheel, and only now are we getting to the point where we will have to pay big time for our neglect.

      The problem with any union, private or public, though is that their influence has gotten out of hand. An individual who wants to work somewhere should have the right to decide for himself whether he wants to join any existing union or not. But once a union gets established as a workplace, that ability disappears for the individual worker. Also, increasingly workers’ unions dues are used for political purposes that are quite radical and often not agreeable to many of the workers themselves. This is an abuse of those dues that should not be going on.

      If you read the links I offered above, you’ll see that one is an opinion piece by Gov. Walker. I think he expresses himself and his position well, and I support him.

      I’m not a supporter of the welfare state. Never will be. I agree with Rep. Paul Ryan who notes that in America we do believe in a safety net. However, that is a very different thing from a system in which the government becomes everyone’s “Mommy.” I’m not interested having my every move controlled by the State. I don’t want its interference in decisions that should belong alone to me and those I care to share it with. I’m also not agreeable to having my earnings confiscated by the State as taxes to the degree that some radical “progressives” (such as my congresswoman) would like to legislate. The government has a limited role that is it entitled to play. But its role has been enlarged to such an inflated degree that it rapidly becoming Big Brother. I want none of it and will do all I can to roll back the powers of the State that I think should not have been assumed in the first place.

      The Koch brothers did not get the Tea Party off the ground. They have, so we read, been involved in certain Tea Party organizations — perhaps one can parallel that to some degree with George Soros on the radical left. However, the Tea Party movement IS a grass roots movement that wasn’t the brain child of a particular person or persons — not the Koch brothers, not Sarah Palin, not Glenn Beck, etc.

      Very good. We’ve said our pieces. Let’s leave it at that.

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