Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Detroit News: Labor bosses don’t share workers’ pain

We’re going to push the bounds of fair use today, because union bosses don’t see fit to play fair. In a major article published this morning, the Detroit News uncovers the facts and unloads on labor “leaders” who maintain their quality of life while their membership plummets along with their members’ spirits.

The News leads off:

Michigan’s biggest unions represented 60,000 fewer workers in 2006 compared with 2002. While membership plummeted 14 percent, jobs at union halls remained safe, dropping less than 1 percent.

Workers who kept their jobs saw the disparity between their paychecks and those of their union bosses grow. The pay gap between the state’s 50 top-paid labor leaders and union workers has grown by $18,000 since 2002 — an economic chasm expanding by almost $10 a day. Records supplied to the Labor Department by the unions themselves show that the state’s 50 top-paid union officials now earn an average of $186,000. More than 1,000 labor officers and staffers in Michigan made more than $100,000 in 2006, more than twice as much as the average union worker.

And what of all that anti-employer rhetoric thrown around by union bosses (see the AFL-CIO’s “Executive Pay Watch” for example)? The News reports:

Union leaders and members have long complained about the millions paid to CEOs in salaries and perks. For instance, Alan Mulally, president and CEO of Ford Motor Co., was paid more than $28 million last year — that’s over 450 times more than the average line worker at the company. And Michigan’s top corporate titans had their average pay more than double since 2001, The News reported in May.

Less known to the public — and to many union members — is the growing pay gap within many unions.

In 2006, the highest-paid union official in Michigan was Grosse Pointe Park’s Walter “Ralph” Mabry, the former executive secretary-treasurer of the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters. He was paid more than $410,000 last year — up $26,000 from the year before. That’s a 6.7 percent pay hike at a time when his union lost 5 percent of its members, records show.

And there are some key figures on major unions. The paper reports:

  • Five UFCW officers in Michigan were paid more than $200,000 last year compared with top pay for union butchers of $40,000 — but the news is even worse. One UFCW member, following the sale of Farmer Jack grocery stores, said of union bosses that they “were in it for themselves … They pushed us aside when it was over.”
  • Michigan Education Association executive director Luigi Battaglieri (see just one entry on for him) was paid more $334,000 — nearly double the pay of the state’s public schools superintendent.
  • SEIU Local 79 head Willie Hampton “saw his pay jump 25 percent from 2002 to 2006” — but during “that same time, his union has lost 30 percent of its membership.”