The American Federation of Teachers pays big money to travel in luxury vehicles, according to its federal financial disclosures.
The union, which represents more than 1.5 million teachers, spent nearly $120,000 on a Connecticut limousine service last year. Alpine Worldwide Chauffeur Services is based in New Canaan, Ct., and offers an impressive selection of luxury cars, including brand new Lincolns, Audis, and Cadillacs for New York City elites.
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"Our chauffeurs receive continuous training for safety, customer service, and efficiency to maintain a comfortable environment for our guests," the company says on its website.
The AFT did not respond to request for comment.
The luxury travel budget isn’t the only perk labor honchos have enjoyed since President Randi Weingarten took control of the union in 2008. Weingarten, a public opponent of the 1 percent, drew nearly $560,000 in compensation last year—enough to pay the salaries of ten school teachers or three private sector CEOs.
An increasing share of union dues are dedicated to financing overhead and union management, rather than member services, according to federal labor filings.
While membership has nearly doubled since 2008, the union’s spending on "representational activities," such as grievance services and contract negotiations, has only increased 11 percent. Spending in other areas climbed at a much faster pace. Union leadership’s budget has increased by 25 percent since Weingarten took office. The union’s political spending jumped 33 percent between 2008 and 2013 and AFT has vowed to spend record amounts on the 2014 midterm elections.
AFT relies on its members to finance its operations, as well as a line of credit from Sun Trust bank. Weingarten has increased dues payments by 21 percent since taking office, even as teacher salaries have fallen 4 percent since 2009. The union also spent more than $100 million that it borrowed from Sun Trust bank.
Richard Berman, head of the watchdog website AFTFacts.com, said that the union’s expensive tastes conflict with the rhetoric of its leadership. Berman said that the union should concentrate more of its energy on helping good teachers earn higher salaries through education reforms.
"While [Randi Weingarten] campaigns for redistributive tax policies and ‘shared sacrifice,’ she is merrily living the life of the one percent, with a half million dollar compensation package, a house in East Hampton, and even chauffeured limo rides for her and her lieutenants—all paid for by AFT member dues," he said. "Meanwhile, she fights tooth and nail to oppose performance-based pay reforms that would allow the nation’s best educators to live a more comfortable life."