How unions spend workers’ money
In 2013, SEIU Healthcare Illinois-Indiana spent a total of $1.5 million on such things as hotels, air travel, rental cars, and restaurants and catering. These “extras” represent the money of 3,092 members and nonmembers, or 3.3 percent of the union’s total membership.
With politicians on their side, government unions have no problem requiring workers to hand over a part of their paychecks. But what happens with that money afterward?
Big government unions do not willingly divulge this information, but most of the major groups are required to file annual reports online with the U.S. Department of Labor. Recently, the Illinois Policy Institute reviewed the reports of the state’s major government unions. The Department of Labor’s website is very difficult to use, complete with a nearly nonexistent search engine (visit illinoispolicy.org to view reports for: AFSCME Council 31, the Illinois Education Association, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, SEIU Healthcare Illinois-Indiana, SEIU Leadership Council, SEIU Local 1, SEIU Local 73).
These reports, called LM-2s, while not perfect, can be quite revealing. In them, unions must disclose their employees’ wages and list vendors receiving more than $5,000.
The report from Chicago-based Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois-Indiana listed plenty of spending that hardly seems essential.
In 2013, the union spent a total of $1.5 million on such things as hotels, air travel, rental cars, and restaurants and catering. That’s out of a total annual budget of $46.2 million, most of which comes from members’ dues and agency fees from nonmembers who are required to pay.
If you divide the total union budget of $46.2 million by all the members and nonmembers paying in, you would get an average of $492 a person. Using that number, the $1.5 million the union paid for these “extras” represents the money of 3,092 members and nonmembers, or 3.3 percent of the union’s total membership.
The report also contains other eyebrow-raising numbers. In December 2013, the SEIU chapter spent $49,619 on its “membership” Christmas party, which included $34,556 for catering and $6,063 for purchases at Binny’s Beverage, a liquor store. Binny’s is a regular vendor for the annual party, with the union spending about the same amount annually for booze. The 2013 party represents money from 100 members.
According to the union’s report, 62 percent of its spending was categorized under “representational activities,” the reason for the union’s existence. Yet it’s hard to understand how a lavish party advances the cause of representing workers’ interests.
Other SEIU Healthcare expenses included $7,523 for floral arrangers at a 2013 event and $6,859 for Christmas decorations for the union office the year before.
The union was not alone in holding costly parties. The previous year, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 spent $31,972 at a “holiday party” in Springfield for directors and staff, not members. That tab included hotel rooms. The union designated the spending as “general overhead.”
While the unions are required to file the annual report with the federal government, the Institute was unable to find LM-2s on any of the big public unions’ websites. Apparently, it’s not information they want the public to see.