Why Is Big Labor 'Out of Touch' With Workers? Union Officials Making $150,000+ Tripled

Forced-Unionism Privileges, Not Fat Paychecks, Are the Root Cause

(Source: May 2010 NRTWC Newsletter)

Just between 2000 and 2008 (the last year with complete data), the number of union officials and union staff members “earning more than $100,000 a year” tripled.

Over the same period, the number of officers and staff “earning more than $150,000 also tripled.”

The review of federal union disclosure forms to derive these data, which pointedly challenge the conventional wisdom about union finances today, was performed not by the National Right to Work Committee or by an anti-union pundit, but rather by New York City-based union activist Mark Brenner.

Mr. Brenner published his findings in an article appearing in the March issue of Labor Notes, a publication that strongly supports forced unionism, but is independent of the union hierarchy.

Data Indicate Unionized Workers’ Job Losses Don’t Deplete Union Treasuries

The fact that the number of union officials and staff earning high salaries “has exploded in recent years,” as Mr. Brenner has demonstrated, might surprise people who get their information on labor unions from major media.

Many commentators on American labor unions have spun together a myth about declining union finances from what is truly bad news only for union-“represented” workers, who are typically forced to pay union dues or “agency” fees as a condition of employment.

Although at first it may seem paradoxical, the fact is that union bosses’ revenue stream of forced dues and fees has gotten larger over the past four decades, even as union-boss featherbedding and wasteful work rules have destroyed good private-sector jobs, or forced them overseas.

Consequently, as Mr. Brenner’s article noted, in 2008, “nearly 10,000 union officials or staff brought home salaries greater than $100,000, costing a total of $1.2 billion.”

If you look at total compensation, which includes “meal and housing allowances and other expense reimbursements,” you see the number of union bosses and staff in the “$100,000 club” is actually far higher.

In 2008, “[o]fficers and staff collecting more than $100,000 in union funds numbered 13,688; their tab climbed to a combined total of more than $1.9 billion.”

If Union Affiliation Were Truly Voluntary, High Salaries Wouldn’t Be Objectionable

“Mark Brenner and Labor Notes have uncovered a real problem, but the problem isn’t exactly what they seem to think it is,” commented Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Committee.

“As forced-unionism proponents, Mr. Brenner and Labor Notes charge that ‘bloated’ union-boss salaries are to blame for Big Labor being ‘out of touch’ with workers.

“But I doubt workers’ opinion of unions would be affected much by the size of union officials’ salaries, if each worker had the individual freedom to choose whether or not to be represented by and bankroll a union.

“In that case, workers who thought the union was doing a good job negotiating their pay and benefits and defending their job security almost certainly wouldn’t begrudge their union officials salaries of $100,000 or even, in some cases, much more.

“On the other hand, workers who thought the union was doing a lousy job wouldn’t care about union officials’ salaries at all, because they would avoid having anything to do with the union.

“The problem is that, under current federal law, the individual American worker who wants to keep his job is forced to accept a particular union as his monopoly-bargaining agent, even if he thinks that union harms him.”

Right to Work = Accountability

“And in the 28 non-Right to Work states, the individual worker can also be forced to join or pay fees to an unwanted union,” Mr. Mix continued.

“Government-authorized forced unionism is why union bosses have felt free to jack up their salaries sharply in recent years, even as millions of union-‘represented’ workers have lost their jobs.

“But a national Right to Work law barring all private-sector forced union dues and fees would go a long way toward restoring accountability for union officials, so that their salaries would jibe with their job performance.”