We live in strange times where we have organized labor leaders telling us with straight faces that they are against “income inequality.” But the truth, of course, is that many union bosses believe they are far more equal than the people who pay their salaries.
Launched last month, The Progressive Agenda to Combat Income Equality claims that “income inequality is the crisis of our time, and we need bold, progressive solutions to address it.” The new coalition boasts a gaggle of actors (including Susan Sarandon, Danny Glover), politicos (NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, CA Congresswoman Barbara Lee, professional agitators (Van Jones, Al Sharpton) and national union leaders. Included in the latter camp are teacher union presidents Randi Weingarten and Lily Eskelsen García, AFL-CIO boss Richard Trumka and Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers.
I can’t remember when such a large contingency of limousine lefties have jumped on a bandwagon that so dramatically reveals their raving hypocrisy. For example, Susan Sarandon, who has pulled in as much as $5 million for acting in a film, is worth about $50 millionaccording to Forbes. I wonder how much she shared with the grippes, the gaffers and the gofers who work on her films and earn pennies on the dollar compared to her.
But Sarandon has nothing on union bosses. As NRO’s Jim Geraghty points out:
- American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees’ international president, Gerald McEntee, had a gross salary of $1,020,751 in 2012.
- James Callahan, president of the International Union of Operating Engineers, reported a gross salary of $352,101 in 2012.
- Edwin Hill, international president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, made $326,253 in gross salary in 2012.
Richard Trumka is no better. In 2013, he made over $298,000 and Arlene Holt-Baker earned $368,000 as his executive vice-president. But as this graphic shows, many AFL-CIO members earn under $50,000 a year. In fact, Geraghty writes, the average union member makes $49,400 yearly, a far cry from what the union elites rake in.
And now for the teachers unions …
The ongoing “social justice” meme of the teacher union leaders is that corporate bosses are greedy swine who make too much money compared to their workers. That’s what the honchos say about others, but what do they do?
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average teacher pay in the U.S. is$56,383 per year. However, in his last year as NEA president, Dennis Van Roekel hauled in$541,632 – almost 10 times what a teacher makes. American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten made $543,679 as reported in her union’s most recent tax filing. (It’s interesting how their salaries rise even as their unions lose thousands of members.) But corporate CEOs – allegedly the fat cats – make $178,400 yearly, just five times that of the average worker. And while there are some CEOs whose income is at a greater multiple than 5:1, that typically occurs only at the very biggest firms. As Robert Samuelson recently wrote,
“Pay at the most productive companies rose much faster than average, but ‘within a given firm, wage inequality increased little,’ says University of Minnesota economist Fatih Guvenen….. There are 6 million U.S. businesses, he notes. What’s true of a few thousand huge firms doesn’t describe highly successful small and midsize companies.”
In the Golden State, as per its latest tax filing, the California Teacher Association executives weren’t exactly driven by income equality. Executive director Carolyn Doggett managed to bring in over $407,000 and her assistant James Thrasher over $500,000, while President Dean Vogel garnered $277,000 in total compensation. And for the record, the average teacher in California makes $69,000 a year. Hmm. Doesn’t sound very income-equitable to me.
It’s quite clear that The Progressive Agenda to Combat Income Equality is a group that will not live by its own credo. In George Orwell’s Animal Farm, an allegory of Stalinist Russia, the pigs are in charge. Their arrogant hypocrisy is epitomized by the phrase, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” Were a 2015 version to be written, Sarandon, Trumka, Weingarten et al could replace the pigs.
Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.