America’s Richest 2 Percent: Union Presidents

by Jim Geraghty

Elsewhere on NRO, Kevin Williamson notes “the AFL-CIO maintains a website dedicated to executive compensation” and concludes, “The entire rhetoric of inequality is simply an excuse to rage about incomes at the top, a generation’s worth of progressive shenanigans having failed to do much about those at the bottom.”

There’s a reason union leaders stir fury about the richest 1 percent, and not, say, a bit lower. Almost all of the presidents of the country’s biggest unions earn salaries that put them in the richest 2 percent of Americans, and most of their executive staff is in the richest 3 percent or so.

According to public-disclosure forms collected and posted by the Center for Union Facts, the top salaries at the AFL-CIO in 2012 were president Richard Trumka’s $277,486, executive vice president Arlene Holt-Baker’s $243,571, and secretary-treasurer Elizabeth Shuler’s $243,571. (This is base salary; the top staff gets benefits and other compensations that amount to five-figure sums.)

This puts the top staff of that union in the richest 2 percent in terms of annual income, which is about $200,000.

This Wisconsin AFL-CIO photo shows AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, left; a Green Bay Packers mascot; and, on the right, Wisconsin AFL-CIO president Phil Neuenfeldt, who made $108,526 in 2010, according to the union’s 990 form.

Still, the AFL-CIO leaders are underpaid compared to top staff at some other unions.

One union president can say — either with pride or with shame — that he is, indeed, one of America’s richest one-half of 1 percent. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees’ international president, Gerald McEntee, had a gross salary of $1,020,751 in 2012.

American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten is listed as having a base salary of $396,304 — with more than $160,000 in “benefits and other compensation.” This puts her in the richest 1 percent, as the threshold for that distinction is a salary of $394,000. Fifteen staffers at the organization collect more than $200,000, once you combine salary and other benefits.

James Callahan, president of the International Union of Operating Engineers, reported a gross salary of $352,101 in 2012.

Edwin Hill, international president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, made $326,253 in gross salary in 2012.

Over at the National Education Association, 32 staffers make more than $200,000 per year, topped by director Andrew Linebaugh’s $304,085.

Joseph Hansen, international president of the United Food and Commercial Workers, made $297,941 in gross salary in 2012.

Robert Buffenbarger, international president of the Machinists, had a gross salary of $253,914 in 2012.

Lawrence Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America, can lament that his 2012 gross salary of $193,793 leaves him in only the richest 3 percent of Americans.

The average union member makes $950 per week, which comes out to $49,400, before taxes and before union dues are taken out — and there’s a big range in union dues per member per year.

This morning, the Los Cerritos News reports:

. . . a lawsuit filed in the California Central US District Court claiming that former US Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, a current candidate for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, was provided thousands of dollars worth of free private jet travel without declaring the trips on the federal government required forms, paid for by the powerful International Union of Operating Engineers based in Pasadena during the same period she was undergoing confirmation hearings to become part of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet . . . 

[Long time IUOE leader William Waggoner] provided the XL jet to fly Solis between commuter airports in El Monte and Ontario on several occasions so “she could avoid freeway traffic.”

(Waggoner made $75,000 in gross salary in 2012.)

Shocking as the allegation about Solis is, more folks may be surprised that the International Union of Operating Engineers has a Cessna Citation XL Jet. That plane costs about $12 million new, about $4 million to $5 million used.