Top 30 Highest Paid Union Leaders
Friday, April 29, 2011
The highest paid union leader in Rhode Island, according to the survey of the reports, was Donald Iannazzi, the business manager for Local 1033 of the Laborers’ International Union of North America.
His total compensation stood at $265,870 in fiscal year 2009, the year for which the most recent data was available. That figure includes salary plus a whole range of benefits, including health insurance and retirement—as well as any other compensation received from affiliated organizations that had to be reported.
Iannazzi heads up one of the largest unions in Rhode Island. At about 4,000 members, it includes roughly 800 Providence city workers as well as other city, school, and state employees.
Iannazzi declined to respond to criticisms that union executives are paid more than their counterparts in the private sector. And he said he didn’t have to answer to the public for how much he makes. “My members certainly know what I do and my members establish the compensation I receive,” Iannazzi told GoLocalProv.
Nearly a third of those in the top 30 are leaders of Teamsters Local 251. Six of the top earners are with the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers and three are with the state affiliate for the National Education Association. (See below chart for the full list of the top 30.)
One of them, ranking 18th, is a state Senator, Frank Ciccone, D-Providence, who serves as President of the Laborers State Council. A number of other high-profile union officials made the list, including the NEA’s Bob Walsh, and AFL-CIO leader George Nee.
A number of top union officials also did not make the list because their positions are part-time, which is reflected in their compensation. That includes J. Michael Downey, the public face of Council 94 of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees. Because his compensation stands at $30,000 he comes nowhere close to those in the top 30.
Also conspicuously absent is current AFT President Frank Flynn because at the time the data was collected, in 2009, he was a part-time vice president, receiving an $813 stipend.
Of the top 30, all but three hauled in six-figure salary and benefit packages. Four were above $200,000. (The data is based on IRS 990 forms filed for 2009—the most recently available year. The most prominent state public and private sector unions were included in the analysis.)
Union leader: ‘I’m not embarrassed about what I make’
“I’m not embarrassed about what I make,” Reddy told GoLocalProv. “I work hard. I work 70 hours a week.” He said his union represents workers at two of the largest employers in the state—Rhode Island Hospital and UPS. Combined, the Teamsters have about 3,500 members at just those two companies.
Reddy said what he makes is less than many of the attorneys with whom he negotiates contracts. “If I was an attorney doing what I’m doing, I’d make six times what I do,” he said.
However, a leader of the state’s largest taxpayer organization said the data shows the compensation for the top union leaders “far outpaces” the average compensation in the private sector. “Though these individuals call themselves leaders of ‘working people's unions,’ it’s clear they are in an elite top-tier category and are among the highest paid executives in Rhode Island,” said Harriet Lloyd, executive director of the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition.
Reddy took exception to including the cash value of his benefits in the calculation of his compensation, saying his take-home pay is $140,000—far less than the $214,804 that the 990 form shows as his compensation.
He noted that—as with Iannazzi—his members have to approve any changes in his compensation. Over the last nine years, he said he has not received a raise.
State senator: ‘They’re underpaid’
State Senator John Tassoni, D-Smithfield, disagreed with Lloyd. He said union leaders make far less than corporate executives. “I think they’re extremely low from corporate CEOs,” said Tassoni, who is a board member for the AFL-CIO. “They’re not overpaid. Frankly, if you ask me, they’re underpaid.”
He suggested that the public should be more worried about what corporate CEOs are making than the union leaders.
“We’re not in this recession because of the unions. We’re in this recession because of Wall Street and big business,” Tassoni said. “Their appetite—and I’ll use the word appetite—for what they have in Wall Street and what they take home doesn’t even hold a penny—a pinhead—to what unions take home.”
But Lloyd said the compensation packages union leaders receive could have a significant effect on public policy in the state.
“The rank-and-file union workers need to understand that bosses with these kinds of handsome compensation packages will go to great lengths to hold onto their power and perks, even if that means continuing to negotiate irresponsible contracts with pension provisions that they have to know will be unsustainable for the worker in the years ahead,” Lloyd said.
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