As Union Bosses Spend Money, It's the Members Who Are Told to Pay

2008 was a good year for the bosses of Sheet Metal Workers Local 73 in Chicago.

In fact, according to reports on file with the U.S. Department of Labor, Local 73 took in $13.5 million in 2008. The problem is, however, the Local spent $13.9 million.

Now, as the union’s coffers run dry and union bosses in Washington are telling the Chicago local to build up a six-month reserve, the Chicago union bosses are doing what union bosses do well–raise the members’ dues…nearly 70 percent!

This isn’t sitting well with some members, according to the Chicago Union News.

“When times are tough and jobs are few and far between, I think squeezing your members for more money is ridiculous,” said SMW member Marc Noreuil in an email.

Others in the union called the raise “excessive” and “inconsiderate” for a local with 600 to 700 members unemployed. People were also surprised by the high amount because dues rose only about $35 the last time contracts were up, one worker said.

So where did all the money go?

Well, for starters (according to the DOL report) the union had its business to take care of.

In 2008, SMW Local 73 spent:

  • $20,998 on “furniture and equipment” 
  • $88,011 on automobiles to add to its $174,226 fleet of “automobiles and other vehicles”
  • The local’s “business manager” brought in $274,705 in total compensation with another $190,903 going to the “financial secretary.”
  • $185,967 went to the local’s “recording secretary”

And then, of course, there were the employees of the local union that were taken care of:

  • “Business representatives” took in in ‘total comp.’ $165,700, $162,667, $165,946, $164,361, $166,183, and $166,242, respectively; while…
  • “Organizers” (the union’s salesmen) also took in in ‘total comp.’ $143,530, $138,805 and $120,417, respectively.
  • The local even had an office manager that cost the union’s members $98,122 in 2008.

But, it doesn’t end there. The local also spent:

  • $177,309 on legal counsel.
  • $11,162 in hotel expenses for a conference in Washington
  • $8,014 at Caesar’s Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas (for another conference)
  • $13,697 on Disney Reservations (in FL) for yet another conference
  • $21,091 to the Chicago Sun Times for “Death Announcements”
  • $13,751 for flowers
  • $10,745 for jackets and St. Patrick’s Day T-Shirts
  • $40,154 for Building Maintenance (cleaning services)
  • $14,220 to “Steve the Snowman” for snow removal (is this a union snow remover?)
  • $6,646 to Build-a-Bear for a Christmas party for members’ kids (aaah!)
  • $7,141 for caterers for an “executive board meeting” (yum!)
  • $21,820 for caterers for a “PIN party” (sounds like the members got stuck with the tab for the pin)
  • $24,000 for the local’s newsletter (Here’s a newsflash: The newsletter probably didn’t tell say much about the local’s spending habits.)
  • $8,657 for more caterers…
  • $14,100 for a Christmas party (were the members invited?…Because that seems light for 5,000 [+] members.), and
  • $192,767 went to the union’s officers and staff retirement fund.

Meanwhile, the local is telling its members that their dues could increase from $337 to $562 per quarter, or from $1348 per year to $2248.

Perhaps, instead of taking more from their members (600 to 700 of whom are unemployed), the union bosses might cut back on their expenses like any other business would.

Just a thought.


“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776

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Cross-posted on LaborUnionReport.