International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers Union Bosses Grow Fat

Forced-Dues Fed Fat Cats

The salaries, perks and benefits of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers is raising eyebrows — to say the least — among the 59,000 members of the union.  It appears that union members are finding their union due’s money spent on the personal benefit of the union bosses including family members on the payroll; Outrageous salaries among the union bosses and suspicious travel reimbursements.

McClatchy Newspapers has the story:

First-class travel. Six-figure salaries for half the 132 officers and staffers. Plenty of plum jobs for family members.

Life is good at the top of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers.

The union, with its headquarters in Kansas City, Kan., represents about 59,000 workers in the U.S. and Canada who make and repair boilers, fit pipes and work on ships and power plants. The recession has hit their trade hard, reducing union membership.

At the same time, the president’s salary has surged 67 percent in the past six years, not counting a recent raise. Add in travel and some other expenses, and Newton B. Jones received more than $600,000 last year, putting him at the absolute top of the presidents of the dozen biggest unions in the country.

Many relatives of union officers also ride the payroll.

Totaling the pay to just the families of Jones and two other executives, the union and its affiliates gave them more than $2 million in annual salary, according to the most recent financial reports filed by the organizations.

In an interview, two union spokesmen defended the spending and hiring practices before requesting other questions in writing. Although they did not respond to every question, Michael Stapp, the union’s general counsel, provided a written response that included praise for the Boilermakers.

In April, an anonymous letter, mailed purportedly by Boilermakers members and obtained by The Kansas City Star, sharply criticized union leaders.

“While members and their families struggle to make it through this recession, our IBB (International Brotherhood of Boilermakers) leaders have been living high off the hog at members’ expense,” the letter said.

“We regret that we have to be anonymous at this time because we fear retribution from a leadership that regrettably values its own personal and financial interests above the rank and file’s.”

All together, the total disbursements last year to the top nine Boilermakers officers ” $4.1 million ” were $182,000 more than the total disbursements to the 29 executives at the national headquarters of the Teamsters union.

Stapp added that union leadership has reduced annual expenses by more than $10 million over the past nine years, including the elimination of three officers. Shortly after the 2011 convention, Jones and other officers made an additional $3 million in cuts, with more being considered, he said.

“Those kinds of benefits seem extraordinarily high,” Owens said. “That’s just over the top.”

Taxpayers have a stake in the Boilermakers’ spending, he said.

The union, like most, is structured as a nonprofit organization, which means it qualifies for exemption from federal income tax. But the law prohibits union officials or key employees from benefiting from the tax-free money they raise.

“They’re not paying income tax,” Owens said. “So in a sense, we’re all supporting them. I don’t mind tax-exempts that are doing what they’re supposed to do, but if they aren’t, I’d kind of like them to pull on the oars, too.”

The union is principal shareholder of Brotherhood Bank & Trust. Three of the bank’s 11 board members are union officers, and one is a retired union officer. The bank’s chairman? Boilermakers President Newton Jones.

In calendar year 2010, Jones received $52,945 as chairman of the bank’s board of directors in addition to his union pay, according to the most recent report he filed with the Labor Department. The previous year, Jones earned $79,775 as bank chairman and $260,000 as the bank’s chief executive officer and interim president. In 2008, he received $230,000 from the bank.

International Secretary-Treasurer William Creeden reported earning $258,650 from the bank in 2009, the last year he filed. He also received $252,098 in salary from the Boilermakers union in fiscal 2010.

When the union’s officers get away, they do it in style.

The union has an 18.75 percent ownership in a Piaggio airplane, which holds up to nine passengers. Today, a new one sells for about $6 million. The Boilermakers also have a 6.25 percent share in a second airplane, according to its Labor Department filing.

In 2011, the Boilermakers paid $521,160 to Avantair, its aviation service provider, for maintenance and other fees associated with the planes.

The union also paid $12,854 in 2010 to Alaska Fly Fishing Adventures in Sterling, Alaska, but it is unclear who enjoyed the service, described as an “outfitter and tour guide.”

That year, the union held an Alaska conference at which union officials met with contractors and owners.