Report: Union Presidents Are Paid More Than CEOs

Average salary for union leaders is nearly $60,000 higher than that of chief executives

AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka / AP
May 14, 2017

Leading union officials earned an average salary of $252,370 in 2016, outpacing the average salary of private sector chief executives, according to a new report.

The Center for Union Facts compiled the salary information from federal labor filings of 192 of the largest national, state, and local unions. The report found that labor presidents enjoyed nearly a $60,000 advantage over the take-home pay of the nation's business leaders, who earned an average of $194,350, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The average compensation of union officials, which includes salary and other perks, was $283,678, according to the report.

Airline Pilots Association President Timothy Canoll was the highest-paid union official, according to the federal data. He earned total compensation of $775,829 with a base salary of $526,292. The union, which is a member of the AFL-CIO, gave Canoll about $250,000 in perks in addition to the take-home pay, including $24,000 in allowances and $29,000 in official business expenses, such as meals and entertainment. He was given $196,534 in compensation classified as "Other."

The association did not return an email seeking comment about the nature of Canoll's compensation or the details of his additional benefits.

The Center for Union Facts report is intended to rebut the AFL-CIO's annual Executive Paywatch report, which highlights the pay disparity between business executives and their employees. The union compares the average pay of S&P 500 CEOs and that of the average rank-and-file members. The gap between the two groups is enormous, with CEOs making $13.1 million in total compensation compared to $37,632 for the average production worker—"a CEO-to-worker pay ratio of 347 to 1."

"Last year, S&P 500 CEOs got a 5.9% raise while working people struggled to make ends meet," the union's website says.

The methodology of the union report has come under scrutiny in the past because it does not reflect the actual labor landscape but focuses only on the most lucrative companies. Economist Mark Perry, a scholar at the pro-free market American Enterprise Institute and a University of Michigan-Flint professor, criticized the union's 2014 report for including part-time workers in its calculations. Perry was equally critical of the 2016 report, calling it "fake facts."

The AFL-CIO did not return a request for comment.

Center for Union Facts spokesman Luka Ladan said the group took issue with "cherry-picked" data in the AFL-CIO report he said misleads the public about the everyday experience of workers in the United States. Ladan contrasted the types of income that business officials receive with that of union officials. Workers are affected more directly by their representatives' salaries, which come from deductions to a worker's paycheck, than by a CEO's stock options.

"A long list of fact-checkers has questioned the math behind the AFL-CIO's eye-catching figures," Ladan said. "Union elites would be better off serving their members than throwing stones from glass houses."

Published under: Unions