The Associated Press examined the latest reports for 10 labor groups, including the labor federation AFL-CIO, the Teamsters, and unions representing teachers, firefighters, pilots, and postal and government workers. It found that all paid their presidents six-figure salaries.
Teamsters spokesman Bret Caldwell argued that while union presidents' salaries may seem high compared with what their members make, a better barometer is the pay of corporate executives.
"There's just no comparison," Caldwell said. "Corporate salaries are so bloated that they're beyond reason."
Teamsters President James P. Hoffa was paid $228,713 in 2000. Allowances and disbursements increased the figure to $262,200. The Teamsters reported 1.4 million members.
That compares, according to the AP, with the $1.1 million base salary that the former chairman and chief executive of United Parcel Service was paid in 2001, before retirement. The Teamsters are negotiating with UPS for a new contract. James P. Kelly, who retired from UPS in January, also was paid $462,600 in bonuses and $53,967 in other compensation.
Unions are required to file financial reports annually with the Labor Department. That information, including union bylaws and constitutions, always has been available to the public - but until now, not as readily. Access required a trip to a public disclosure room in the agency or at one of its field offices and payment of a fee for copies.
The Bush administration has made available online financial reports for 2000 and later, which are free and searchable by union name, file number, affiliation or location. Users also can conduct searches for union officers and employees. Reports filed before 2000 are available at the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
The president of the American Federation of Teachers was paid $337,282 in 2000, according to the report the union filed with the Labor Department. Sandra Feldman's income was more than six times the salary of a big-city teacher, and jumped to $523,090 when allowances and business expenses were added. The union counted 706,973 members that year.
Her pay compares with the average $51,955 a year earned in 2001 by a big-city schoolteacher with a master's degree at top scale, according to AFT's Web site.
Feldman's salary "is definitely more than a teacher would make, but it is commensurate with organizations of our size and influence, both labor organizations and otherwise," said AFT spokesman Alex Wohl.
Wohl said, despite what the union reported, Feldman's base salary is about $265,000, because some fringe benefits weren't broken out on the reporting form, such as commuting costs between her two residences.
the first time, the U.S. Labor Department has posted financial reports from the country's major unions on the Internet, and they reveal that union leadership is well paid.