In the lead-up to the Wisconsin recall election, forces for and against the state’s Republican governor Scott Walker are bitterly divided into partisan camps. It’s no secret that labor unions have played a primary role both in prompting the recall election, and in agitating anti-Walker sentiment. The public narrative on the left has always been that it’s Walker’s “anti-worker” policies that put him in this predicament in the first place. And the timing of the Occupy movement’s arrival has certainly been a convenient component that’s not only helped fuel that narrative, but it’s brought the left much needed momentum. That’s not to mention the sheer human capital Occupy brings to get-out-the-vote activities.
Little about this narrative was unanticipated, though. Let’s remember, websites to recall Scott Walker were created before the Wisconsin governor was even inaugurated. Meanwhile, this little experiment in astroturfing is estimated to cost hard working Wisconsin taxpayers over $9 million just to conduct the elections alone, according to the state’s Government Accountability Board.
Factor in an estimated $350,000 in damage repairs from the protests last year in Wisconsin, plus the costs of labor, such as added law enforcement, and the state’s taxpayers are on the hook for quite a bit. All because of politics.
A few days ago, Big Government published a report on some of the big funders behind the recall effort. Given that many of the other funders are labor unions, some of those being public sector unions, it’s appropriate that taxpayers put that money into perspective. We’ve highlighted a handful of the most active unions behind the recall effort, specifically the six-figure annual total compensation of the leaders for each of those unions.
- American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) – Gerald McEntee: $565,035
In an era when “the 99%” are protesting private corporations that are supposedly squelching democracy, and President Obama is taking issue with the political campaign spending of “special interests”, you’d think the public sector employee must be helpless and without any voting power whatsoever. But this public sector union outspent even the Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove’s ‘evil’ American Crossroads PAC in 2010 when AFSCME contributed $87 million to the congressional elections. “”We’re spending big. And we’re damn happy it’s big. And our members are damn happy it’s big-it’s their money,” AFSCME president McEntee told the Wall Street Journal that year. I doubt that all taxpayers would agree. And by the way, where was Occupy to protest that special interest spending?
- National Education Association (NEA) – John Wilson: $492,484
In 2007, this union – which represents over three million members, most on taxpayer funded salaries – spent over $80 million, 20% of its budget, toward left-wing causes and groups, regardless of the personal beliefs of its members. That source pointed out, “As a Wall Street Journal editorial noted, the union’s financial disclosure forms “expose the union as a honey pot for left-wing political causes that have nothing to do with teachers, much less students.”
- United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) – Joseph Hansen: $352,758
UFCW is no stranger to knock-down, drag-out fights. In 2007, after enduring the union’s relentless corporate campaigns, Smithfield Foods finally filed a RICO lawsuit against UFCW, insisting the move was a necessary last resort. The company and union later settled the matter when Smithfield agreed to drop the suit if UFCW suspended its campaigns.
- AFL-CIO – Richard Trumka: $293,750
Trumka has just recently said that he’s met with President Obama about his second term agenda. So if you’re one of those (sssshhhh) Republican union members in Trumka’s organization, your money is going to Obama whether you like it or not. (By the way, do you know your Beck rights? You can ask your union to refund dues money that is not used to represent YOU.)
- Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) – Dan Burkhalter: $242,000
As union members and supporters were protesting Walker’s budget cuts and comparing him to Hitler, WEAC laid off employees of its own, while its leaders raked in six-figure salaries.
Even at the local and state level in Wisconsin, union leaders are compensated along the same lines.
Of the six full-time employees at American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 24 SEPAC in Wisconsin, for instance, all make six-figure salaries. Bill Osmulski at The MacIver Institute found that there is a great disparity between the leaders and the rank and file members of many of the labor unions contributing money to the recall effort. The institute analyzed Internal Revenue Service and Department of Labor filings, and revealed the following details:
- AFSCME 24 SEPAC Executive Director, Marty Beil, made $161,847 in 2008, which is considerably more than Governor Scott Walker ‘s annual salary of $144,423.
- Jana Weaver, Beil’s assistant director made $138,553.
- 16 field representatives of the AFSCME Wisconsin State Council make more than $90,000 annually.
- Richard Abelson, Executive Director of ASCFME Council 48 in Milwaukee, made an annual salary of $106,122 in 2009.
- AFT-WI, a state government employee union that is a part of the AFL-CIO, paid its president, Bryan Kennedy, $129,402 in 2008.
Osmulski further concluded:
To be sure, the labor union wages are not reflective of all state employees. In fact, more than ninety seven percent of state employees (excluding the UW system) make less than $100,000.
The union bosses’ salaries do put them head and shoulders above the average Wisconsinite and the rank and file workers whose plights they regularly bemoan, however.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the state’s median individual income for 2009 was $39,718, meanwhile the median wage for state employees was $45,599 according to an analysis of data provided by the Department of Administration.
When benefits are included, the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance reports the average state employee total compensation in 2008 was valued at $71,000; still only around half of what some labor leaders make in salary alone.
It’s clear that labor unions across the board have contributed a great deal of financial and other support to the Wisconsin recall election. Not only have these unions helped finance the recall effort, they initiated it. Public sector unions, whose members’ and bosses’ salaries are paid by the taxpayers, have been especially influential in the effort.
Taxpayers in Wisconsin are already bearing quite a heavy load for public sector union demands. The recall effort has cost them even more. It remains to be seen whether that burden will diminish or increase as voters in the state prepare for a recall election that could set the stage for the rest of 2012, and beyond.