Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Investigation of Boilermakers Reveals “Lavish Spending Practices and a Lack of Accountability”

30 pieces of silverThere’s wasteful spending and then there’s the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers. According to a recent Kansas City Star investigation, the 58,000-member Boilermakers union has earned quite a reputation for “fine dining, stays in posh hotels, and expensive hunting retreats,” while union officials and their relatives take home hefty six-figure salaries.

In 2016, President Newton Jones’ total compensation climbed to a whopping $756,973—roughly $460,000 more than Richard Trumka’s take-home pay last year. (The key distinction being that Jones’ union totals 58,000 members, while Trumka oversees 12.5 million employees.) The Boilermakers boss took home more than Trumka and Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, combined! But, as the Star‘s Judy Thomas reports, that’s only the tip of the iceberg:

  • The salaries of the union’s seven top officers now add up to $2.5 million, with total disbursements to those officers exceeding $3.5 million. Of the 107 other employees, 46 earn six-figure salaries, with 16 of them receiving total disbursements of more than $200,000—including one of $365,546.
  • Family members of executives are still earning healthy salaries working for the union or its affiliates, and Jones’ wife is now on the payroll along with his brother and son.
  • The union headquarters continues to spend sizable sums on classy hotels, fine cuisine and entertainment, such as season tickets to professional sporting events.
  • Federal authorities, including the U.S. Department of Labor, have investigated the $28 million Boilermaker Vacation Plan and one of its local lodges.

And don’t forget the luxury gatherings:

  • Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort and Spa, where the union spent $51,560 for an international executive council meeting and $320,511 for a construction division conference.
  • The Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, where the union spent $343,879 on industrial sector operations conference expenses. An added bonus for those attending: Pole Position Raceway, a Las Vegas go-kart track where the union spent $5,250.
  • The InterContinental Hotel on the Country Club Plaza, where the union spent $16,356 on a holiday party.

Yet the Boilermakers have retained their lavish lifestyle despite a steady drop in members. The union’s membership fell from 57,203 employees in 2012 to just over 53,000 workers four years later.

It’s not the first time that the Boilermakers have come under fire. The Star similarly investigated the union in 2012, which led the Boilermakers to briefly change its spending practices. Alas, it appears that reform was short-lived.

Categories: AFL-CIOSEIUUnion Spending