News Column

Union Bosses Cashing In

Oct. 25, 2012

Joe Battenfeld, Boston Herald

Hub union bosses, including a prominent Democratic lawmaker, are getting six-figure salaries and perks such as SUVs and credit cards while slamming U.S. Sen. Scott Brown and Republicans for siding with the rich, federal documents show.

State Rep. Martin Walsh (D-Boston) earned $167,911 in 2011 as secretary/treasurer of the Building and Construction Trades Council, while also taking home his $67,000 legislative salary, according to Labor Department financial records submitted by the union group.

The Building Trades organization also paid for a brand new $38,750 Jeep for Walsh to use, documents show.

"I'm not part of that 1 percent," Walsh told the Herald.

Walsh, who is helping organize unions for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, said he considers both of his jobs full time and defended his income, saying it's no different than many other legislators who also work as lawyers.

"There are certainly state reps that make a lot more than that," he said.

Another big Warren backer, Mark Erlich, head of the New England Council of Carpenters, earned $183,440 in 2011 and also was reimbursed $10,308 for expenses including travel and meals, according to records. The union also spent $816,000 for leasing vehicles for Erlich and other high-ranking union leaders.

"(The cars) are part of their compensation," Erlich said in an interview. "I don't think that's unreasonable."

The salaries, cars and expenses are mostly paid for out of dues from rank-and-file union members.

Both Erlich and Walsh made more than Brown's Senate salary, $174,000.

Erlich reported getting $274,000 in total compensation to the IRS in 2010, but he said about $100,000 of that was charges put on his union credit card by him and other union officials who use it.

Carpenters have been among the workers hardest hit by the long recession, but Erlich said his compensation is reasonable considering he runs a $17 million organization.

"I am not complaining about my salary," he said, adding that the union rank and file aren't upset by it.

But one member of the carpenters union in Springfield told the Herald members are afraid to complain because they might be punished.

"There are a lot of people upset about it, but if you voice your opinion you're not put to work," said Jim Vanderpoel of Ware.

Francis Callahan, head of the Massachusetts Building Trade Council, earned $143,299 in 2011. Callahan has been a strong supporter of the Occupy movement, reportedly telling them, "We're part of the 99 percent, just like you."

Michael Monahan, business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 103, in Boston, made $157,853 in 2011, according to Labor Department records, which are available to the public.

A total of 11 executives and business managers at the IBEW 103 made more than $140,000 in 2011. The union also spent $50,000 on cars.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association, which has endorsed Warren and criticized Brown for backing Wall Street and wealthy corporations, boasts more than 30 union leaders making more than $100,000, including Director of Finance Andrew Ferris, who made $148,128 in 2011. The nurses union spent $200,000 on cars in 2011, records show.

Joseph Bonfiglio, business manager for the Massachusetts Laborers' District Council, earned a total of $209,000 in salary and other compensation in 2011, according to records.

Jay Hurley, the leader of the Ironworkers' Local 7 in Boston and a vice president of the national union, got $225,000 in salary and allowances in 2011, records show. He was paid by the International Ironworkers Union in Washington.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Source: (c) 2012 the Boston Herald

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