04.09.2015 2

Yearly dose of sunlight for labor unions

big unions

By Nathan Mehrens

With the coming of spring, baseball season, and longer daylight hours, another type of sunshine arrives — light on union finances. At the end of March, the financial reports for unions in the private and federal sectors for the previous calendar year come due. Those unions with receipts of $250,000 or more file the Form LM-2 with the Labor Department. This form reports detailed information on the union’s finances. A review of the Form LM-2s for the 2014 calendar year yields some interesting information. Here are a few bits.

Topps Company, Inc., the longtime baseball card maker, paid the Major League Players Association $10,162,062 in license fees. That’s a lot of baseball cards. The union also received license money from a number of other companies, ranging from Fathead, LLC, the maker of large wall stickers, to Cyberagent, Inc., a Japanese technology company which sent them $4,350,000.

One hundred fifty-five unions reported that they had experienced a loss or shortage of funds. If your union is one of these, look for them to be audited by the Labor Department soon.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers brought in the most money of any union, with receipts of $791,364,371. They also had the highest disbursements of any union at $798,299,002.

The National Education Association reported the largest membership at 2,963,121. The Service Employees International is next at 1,893,775. Coming in third is another teachers’ union, the American Federation of Teachers with 1,597,140 members.

At the top of the list of unions with the highest net assets is the United Auto Workers at $971,518,705. At the other end of the spectrum, the New York State United Teachers reported net assets of -$312,952,177.

Two of the largest disbursements, totaling over $47 million, came from the Airline Pilots. These disbursements were payments made pursuant to legal settlements.

Speaking of pilots, the Operating Engineers Local 12 spent $231,898 on the two pilots that they have on staff, $263,487 on aircraft maintenance, $36,587 on hangar rental, and over a half-million dollars on entities listed as “gas and oil company” for things like “transportation equipment fuel.” Presumably, a large part of that transportation fuel was used in their jet — a jet which has been involved in quite a bit of controversy.

Excluding the sports unions which skew the figures higher, more than two hundred officers and employees were paid over $200,000, one hundred seventeen were paid over $300,000 or more, twenty seven were paid over $400,000, ten were paid over $500,000, three were paid over $600,000, two were paid over $700,000, and one, an attorney working for the Independent Pilot Association, broke the million dollar mark, receiving $1,132,405.

Several union officials each received “other disbursements” in excess of $100,000 for the year. These are disbursements to the official that “were essentially for the personal benefit of the officer and not necessary for conducting official business of the labor organization.”

Nice hotels, such as the Caesars Palace in Las Vegas received union business. The Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers National Headquarters spent $1,354,119 there. The Steelworkers National Headquarters spent $1,341,530 at the MGM Grand.

Unions spent money on other fun things like golf. For instance, the Teamsters Joint Council 7 spent $93,701 at the Rancho Canada Golf Club. When describing the purpose of the disbursement, they simply listed it as “golf club.” Unions also spent tens of thousands of dollars at racetracks such as the Kansas Speedway.

The information from the financial reports that unions file with the U.S. Department of Labor enables their members to know whether the union leadership has been a good steward of the members’ money. In those situations where the members decide that the union has not been a good steward of their money, they can then take action to elect new leaders. The information in these reports has proven useful to members over the years and every member should review their union’s report on the Labor Department’s website.

Nathan Mehrens is President of Americans for Limited Government Foundation.

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