LaborTalk for February 14, 2012

Are the High Salaries of AFL-CIO Officials
A Sign of Economic Inequality in Unions?

By Harry Kelber

When Richard Trumka was elected AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer in 1995, he received an annual salary of $165,000. Today as the AFL-CIO's president, his basic salary is $264,827 and benefits of $18,513, expanding his total compensation to $283,340.

To translate the math, Trumka increased his salary (not counting the perks) by $100,000 within a dozen years. That's more than twice the median annual wage of American workers. Is it fair to ask what did he do to earn that kind of money? And how did his leadership benefit the millions of unemployed and workers who are struggling to earn a livelihood?

Is there any evidence that he, and the other two top AFL-CIO officers, who earn six-figure salaries, care about the plight of union members? Did they even make a gesture at taking a wage cut, while millions lost their jobs and their homes? Nor has anyone noticed any sign of their generosity and spirit of solidarity.

Big salaries for repeatedly elected international officers are standard, and they are rarely, if ever, decreased by poor performance. Of the 57 members of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, 17 0f them (30 percent) were paid in excess of $300,000 in 2010. Is it really surprising that most of them are nowhere to be seen while unions are under severe attack from its corporate and political enemies?

Union Presidents Thrive on Big Pay and Certainty of Re-Election

Gerald McEntee is paid more than $400,000 a year as president of AFSCME. He has held the job for 30 years and is thinking of retiring. The highest paid labor official is Laborers' President Terence O'Sullivan, who last year received nearly $600,000. And the president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, collected $389,000 every year.

Are we certain that these high-priced labor leaders, who have held office for years, are working feverishly on our behalf? Even if we withhold our doubts, there is no evidence that they've helped us in any way. Moreover, they've suffered no hardship in their lack of progress, either financial or loss of job.

* * * * *

The AFL-CIO is a frozen labor organization. It is in the control of a bureaucratic group of international union presidents who use corrupt methods and fraudulent elections to maintain their perpetual power.

We are now in the process of developing new leaders — in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Florida and other states, who will attain national recognition as they fight for honest elections, union democracy and members' rights.

In that forward -moving process, we can count on Occupy Wall Street to help the labor movement tackle America's top problem — economic inequality.

LaborTalk will be posted here on February 17, 2012 and on our two web sites and on

Powered by