Labor union membership as a percentage of the nation’s overall workforce has been steadily declining from its peak of 35 percent in the 1950s. The result is that unions now represent only 6.6 percent of all private sector jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS data makes it clear that the trend isn’t going to reverse any time soon, either, because unions lost 400,000 members last year as total employment grew by 2.6 million. The only thing keeping Big Labor from becoming an incidental factor in the American workplace is that government employees are five times more likely to be unionized than those in the private sector.
If corporate executives lost market share as dramatically and steadily as the labor chieftains, they would be shown the door or their doors firms would be shuttered. Failure to develop and sell products and services that people want is a surefire way of going out of business. This is what makes free markets the source of the widest range of goods and services for the most people at the lowest cost.
But that’s not the way it works in the highest ranks of Big Labor, as is made clear in an examination of how much the top 100 union leaders were paid last year. A total of 428 private sector union leaders were paid at least $250,000 annually, and the top 100 of those made more than $350,000, according to a study of Department of Labor data by Media Trackers, a conservative, nonprofit investigative watchdog group. The highest-paid union leaders work for organized professional athletes, with G. William Hunter, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, who received $3.2 million. The only government employee union leader in the top 10 is Gerald McEntee, international president of the Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees, whose $1.2 million compensation put him fourth on the list.
The vast majority of the rest of the top-paid union leaders, however, represent blue-collar trade organizations. Joseph Senese, head of the National Production Workers group, made $698,406; Robert Scardeletti, president of the Transportation Communications Union, got $630,053; and John Niccollai, who runs the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 464, received $549,497. Others managing blue-collar unions on the list include Longshoremen’s Association president Harold Daggett at $541,103; William Hite, general president of the Plumbers Union, at $501,203; and Joseph Nigro, the Sheet Metal Workers' general president, at $459,643. All of these men also receive generous benefits and perks in addition to their annual salaries.
These individuals lead many unions represented by the AFL-CIO, whose president, Richard Trumka, led a labor delegation that met privately with President Obama last week to discuss Obamacare. They represent workers covered by multi-employer “Cadillac” health insurance plans that Obamacare taxes heavily. Their unions will get a special exception not available to millions of middle-class Americans when Obamacare takes effect Oct. 1.