Free Markets, Free People

pension funds


What good is a union if it can’t deliver the goods?

That’s kind of the $64,000 dollar question (yes, I’m showing my age … bite me) isn’t it?

You’ve seen the news about the fast food walkouts and claims that food service people should be paid $15 an hour?  That what the United Food and Commercial Workers union claims workers in that industry should have.  But what do workers they actually represent in that industry actually get?  Not much over minimum wage and union dues to pay out of that:

An examination of UFCW contracts shows that even senior union members are not receiving the wages that ROC and Jobs for Justice demand.

Consider a department manager at Kroger’s union shop in Michigan. She earns a maximum rate of $13.80, even after over half a decade on the job. If this is the highest wage the UFCW can negotiate for skilled, experienced workers, how can the union provide entry-level, low-skilled workers with $15 an hour?

It is not possible for them to accomplish this. Yet, receiving media coverage for the protests they sponsor is an effective way to increase membership and dues collections. The wage they demand is more than twice what similarly skilled union members are paid, namely $7.40 an hour for an entry-level cashier.

Courtesy clerks are paid a starting rate of $7.40 an hour and can work their way to up a wage ceiling of $7.45, after 12 months on the job. Fuel clerks do not fare much better; they start at the same $7.40 and can earn $7.80 an hour after three years of experience, barely over half of the $15 an hour wage worker centers supported by the UFCW demand. Specialty clerks also start at $7.40 an hour, but can earn up to $9.35 after six years. This amount is still 25 percent below the $12.50 an hour “living wage” Jobs for Justice claims all entry level workers should be paid. Read the full union contract between Kroger and the UFCW here.

The take-home pay is even lower once dues—and federal and state taxes—are removed. Dues are mandatory and usually take between $19 and $60 a month from members’ paychecks.

A non-union member could negotiate that without even trying hard.  So, what good is the union really done for those those it represents?  Other than pay it’s union staff very well?

It is expensive to run a union. The average total compensation for those employed by the UFCW—rather than represented by the UFCW—is $88,224 a year. This income is almost six times what the union negotiated for cashiers at Kroger’s. Joseph Hansen, the International President of UFCW, earns in excess of $350,000 a year—over twenty times the earnings of many of the workers he represents. The Executive Vice President and National President both earn over $300,000. Are entry-level union workers receiving benefits from paying dues out of their $7.40 an hour paychecks to fund these salaries?

But you know, it’s “management” that’s the problem, right?  I mean how could a cashier negotiate a $7.40 an hour paycheck without the union – and then give the union its “dues” out of that same paycheck?  Hey, the president of the union has to have his perks, right?

I know, I know, don’t look at the paycheck, look at the other benefits … like a pension, right?

The UFCW has one of the worst records for funding of union pension plans. The Labor Department has informed the UFCW that nine of its pension plans have reached “critical status,” meaning they are less than 65 percent funded. Many of these funds have been underfunded for six years. They have low chances of regaining sustainable financing unless they can convince more new members to join and pay dues without receiving similar benefits.

Sigh.

And, of course, there’s the political side of things … it is important to help fund the union’s political activities, no?

Some portion of dues goes towards political contributions. The UFCW contributed $11.6 million during the 2012 election cycle, of which nearly 100 percent went to Democrats.

Well of course it went to Democrats.  Democrats have been in the union’s pocket (and vice versa) since time began, apparently.  Put $11.6 in the pension fund?  What are you, a Republican?

Yes, it’s a crying shame people aren’t represented by this union … said no libertarian, ever.

~McQ


Who is robbing whom here?

We’ve been treated to stories of “greed” and supposed corporate misbehavior by the OWS crowd, but here’s a story that ought to make you furious, especially if you’re an Illinois taxpayer:

Two lobbyists with no prior teaching experience were allowed to count their years as union employees toward a state teacher pension once they served a single day of subbing in 2007, a Tribune/WGN-TV investigation has found.

Steven Preckwinkle, the political director for the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and fellow union lobbyist David Piccioli were the only people who took advantage of a small window opened by lawmakers a few months earlier.

Obviously any number of people are culpable.  The lawmakers, of course.  But the two who took advantage of this legal loophole are simply morally reprehensible people who took advantage of the system for personal gain without earning what they will receive.

The legislation enabled union officials to get into the state teachers pension fund and count their previous years as union employees after quickly obtaining teaching certificates and working in a classroom. They just had to do it before the bill was signed into law.

So seeing an opportunity to cash in without actually having to do any real teaching, they quickly got teaching certificates and substitute taught for one day.   One day.  They were paid $93 for the day.

The result from that day?  Probably over $100,000 a year in pension payments:

Preckwinkle’s one day of subbing qualified him to become a participant in the state teachers pension fund, allowing him to pick up 16 years of previous union work and nearly five more years since he joined. He’s 59, and at age 60 he’ll be eligible for a state pension based on the four-highest consecutive years of his last 10 years of work.

His paycheck fluctuates as a union lobbyist, but pension records show his earnings in the last school year were at least $245,000. Based on his salary history so far, he could earn a pension of about $108,000 a year, more than double what the average teacher receives.

Meanwhile, as you might guess, the pension fund is horribly underfunded and teachers who’ve spent a career in the classroom stand to get less than half what these two will get.

The union finds no real problem with what its two paid lobbyists did:

A spokesman for the Illinois Federation of Teachers emphasized that the lobbyists’ actions were legal and that they made "individual decisions."

Even so, union President Dan Montgomery said the deal Preckwinkle and Piccioli landed "should never be allowed again." But the union, which provides its employees with a private 401(k)-type plan, is standing by the lobbyists’ right to have access to the public pension.

"They entered TRS under the law and are participating members of TRS. As a TRS employer, the IFT is required to make the payments to TRS," the union said in a statement.

Of course we all know that legal and moral are only the same by coincidence.  These two scoundrels knew precisely what they were doing and did what they did with malice aforethought.  This was a bid to cash in while doing nothing.  And of course, cheats like them are more than happy – along with the union – to stand behind the façade of legality.

And oh, by the way, it should never happen again because the law was changed after these two grifters cashed in.

Always looking out for the little guy and making sure he gets a square deal, those union guys.

HT: Duane Lester

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO