Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Detroit Paper Eyes Generous UFCW Leader Salary

Following up on yesterday’s first installment of a series, the Detroit News today looks at how much union bosses should be paid. UFCW members should take note — the paper uses UFCW as an example of overly generous wages:

As president of the United Auto Workers, Gettelfinger is one of the hardest working and most influential labor leaders in the nation. He meets with presidents, negotiates with CEOs and manages a $300 million organization with more than 500,000 workers.

As president of one union hall of the United Food and Commercial Workers, Potter had a much lower profile. He led a membership one-twentieth the size of the UAW, located in one state instead of 50, with the average member earning less than half as much as the typical UAW worker. Yet in 2005 Potter was paid about twice as much as Gettelfinger. The UAW president earned just more than $156,000 in total compensation that year; Potter, in his last full year as president of UFCW Local 951, made $305,000.

There’s more:

In 2004, union-represented lead store clerks at the top of the scale at Meijer received a 1.9 percent raise — 35 cents an hour. That same year, Potter’s total compensation increased 5.2 percent — from $229,000 to $237,000. In 2005, when Meijer employees at the top of the scale received no raises, Potter’s total compensation jumped 29 percent, reaching $305,000.

Of course, if you listen to Potter, this is a national issue for UFCW members. The paper reports:

“I’m not embarrassed or apologetic about what I make,” Potter told The News. “Even at my highest salary, I was never in the top 20 in the UFCW in the country.”

The UFCW’s labor bosses are among the highest paid in the United States, with 33 officers making more than $200,000 in base salary in 2006 — many of whom earned thousands more by drawing additional paychecks from the union’s international office. The average UFCW member earns between $25,000 and $30,000 a year, with many at Michigan grocery stores earning less.

Kind of have to wonder what members are getting for their money.