Workers stuck paying plush AFL-CIO union salaries


By Jason Hart |

AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C., used money taken from workers to pay union officers and employees an average of $89,328 during fiscal 2014.

Including every individual for whom AFL-CIO reported a gross salary to the U.S. Department of Labor — from president Richard Trumka on down — the union coalition spent over $35 million on compensation for three officers and 391 employees.

In 26 states and the District of Columbia, private-sector workers can be forced to pay AFL-CIO affiliates as a condition of employment. Public-sector workers can be forced to pay union fees in D.C. and 23 states, although thousands of Wisconsin and Michigan workers have exercised their ability to opt out as a result of recent reforms.

Millions siphoned from taxpayers make their way to AFL-CIO each year, as the union coalition’s largest affiliates are American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and American Federation of Teachers. This explains AFL-CIO support for bigger government, but AFL-CIO headquarters pay stands in contrast to the organization’s politics.

AFL-CIO backed the fringe-left Occupy Wall Street movement launched in late 2011, and it continues to embrace the group’s “99 percent” rhetoric. Solidarity with low-income workers is a major theme of AFL-CIO efforts to increase union membership, grow government and hike corporate taxes.

People’s World, a publication of Communist Party USA, reported on an April 15 press conference unveiling the 2014 edition of AFL-CIO’s Executive Paywatch report. At the presser, Trumka said the pay of top CEOs keeps increasing “because the system is rigged.”

“They’re cannibalizing their customer base,” Trumka added. Using money paid to AFL-CIO by its dues-funded union affiliates, Trumka was paid a total of $322,131 during AFL-CIO’s 2014 fiscal year ending June 30.

The gap between average AFL-CIO headquarters pay and the national average for all occupations grew from $36,367 in 2004 to $40,639 in 2013. AFL-CIO did not respond to a inquiry about the pay gap between AFL-CIO headquarters and the rest of the country.

Average AFL-CIO pay, the national mean wage for all occupations and the 90th percentile wage for all occupations are shown in the following chart. Averages for all occupations for are not yet available from the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2014.

A recent AFL-CIO video calling for a federal minimum wage hike lamented, “all the income gains of the last 15 years went to the richest 10 percent of Americans,” but AFL-CIO headquarters officers and employees were among the top 10 percent of wage earners nationwide every year from 2004-11.

In 2013, average AFL-CIO headquarters pay was $1,251 lower than the 90th percentile as calculated by BLS. In 2012, AFL-CIO headquarters pay was just $62 shy of the top 10 percent.