McClatchy Newspapers reporter Judy Thomas spent some time in union financial disclosure reports recently and found a raft of compensation abuses by three families that dominate one of the country's 10 biggest labor organizations.
"First-class travel. Six-figure salaries for half the 132 officers and staffers. Plenty of plum jobs for family members," Thomas writes in her lead. "Life is good at the top of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers."
The Boilermakers have about 59,000 members who build and repair boilers and perform a variety of other tasks on ships and power plants. The union's membership has been shrinking in recent years, due to the recession and other factors that have reduced employment in the industry, she said.
"At the same time, the president’s salary has surged 67 percent in the past six years, not counting a recent raise. Add in travel and some other expenses, and Newton B. Jones received more than $600,000 last year," Thomas reports.
Thomas found at least half a dozen Jones relatives, ranging from a brother to a son and a neice, on the union payroll and all with hefty compensation packages.
She also found two other families with multiple members in comfortable positions on the Boilermakers union payroll. The son and daughter of International Vice President Lawrence McManamon Sr. are there, as are the son and daughter of International Secretary Treasurer William Creeden.
How bad are the abuses involved? Thomas compares the Boilermakers to a much more well-known national union organization:
"In membership, the Boilermakers are a mere 5 percent the size of the Teamsters union. Yet which president received more in total disbursements from their unions last year — Teamsters President James P. Hoffa or the lesser-known Newton B. Jones," Thomas asks.
"Jones by more than $200,000. Jones received $607,022 in total disbursements, compared with $372,489 for Hoffa. Total disbursements include salary and business expenses, especially travel, which a union spokesman said made up most of Jones’ expenses," Thomas said.
"Jones’ salary in the last fiscal year, which ended June 30, 2011, was $307,134 — also more than Hoffa. The figures come from annual reports the unions file with the Labor Department.
"Jones’ total disbursements also are more than double those of Richard Trumka, head of the powerful AFL-CIO, a federation of national and international unions with 11.6 million members. Trumka received total disbursements of $293,750.
"All together, the total disbursements last year to the top nine Boilermakers officers — $4.1 million — were $182,000 more than the total disbursements to the 29 executives at the national headquarters of the Teamsters union."
For more, go here. And don't miss the great graphic produced by McClatchy to illustrate the Thomas report.