Class Warfare and Two-Faced Union Bosses

Class Warfare and Two-Faced Union Bosses

Teacher union bosses’ hypocrisy plunges to new depths.

After the recent congressional vote to keep the Bush-era tax cuts in place, National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel lamented on the union’s website,

Today House Republican leadership gave the richest two percent another handout, while pulling the rug out from under millions of children and their families who are falling out of the middle class and into poverty at an alarming rate.

We are long past time to fix a tax system where a hedge fund manager pays a lower federal income tax than the teacher who educates our children. It’s time for everyone to pay their fair share.

Working families and the middle class lost today, while the very rich and corporations won. Working families simply have nothing else to give. And why should they? Despite the rhetoric, there are better options for our economy and country.

Once again we are witnessing a pathetically transparent attempt to rile those who aren’t rich to hate those who are. The standard issue class warfare buzz phrases are a dead giveaway:

• richest two percent

• fair share

• middle class lost while the very rich and corporations won

• hedge fund manager

• working families

Unfortunately, like other class warriors, Mr. Van Roekel has no facts to back his irresponsible assertions. Truth is, according to a recent Congressional Budget Office report,

…the top 1 percent of income earners paid 39 percent of federal individual income taxes in 2009, while earning 13 percent of the income.

Again, the top 1 percent earns 13 percent of all income yet pays 39 percent of all taxes. Sounds to me as if they are paying their fair share and then some.

In addition to avoiding facts, he also doesn’t bother to mention that many teacher union bosses – including Van Roekel – are part of the reviled top 1 percent. His total compensation (salary and assorted perks) went from $397,721 in 2010 to $460,060 in 2011. His American Federation of Teachers counterpart, Randi Weingarten, another whiny finger-pointing faux proletarian, saw her total compensation rise from $428,284 in 2010 to $493,859 in 2011. Oh yeah, and in case you were wondering, these 15+ percent raises came as teacher union membership dwindled. And the teachers who did stay on the job were not getting any pay raises, and in fact many took pay cuts. Ah, but when you are a union boss, “hypocrisy” is just a nine letter word.

State affiliate leaders don’t do too badly either. For instance, in Michigan, MEA President Iris Salters’ total compensation in 2011 was $283,280. In New York, NYSUT boss Richard Iannuzzi brought home about $300,000 including salary and perks.

In fact, it’s not only the teacher union bosses who are living high on the hog, the private sector union elites’ income has skyrocketed since 2000.

Michael Sullivan did very well as general president of one of the country’s biggest trade unions — the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association AFL-CIO — during the last decade, seeing his pay triple and then some, to more than $1 million annually.

Robert Scardelletti, international president of the Transportation Communications International Union AFL-CIO, didn’t do quite as well as Sullivan, but still managed to get by while seeing his pay almost triple in the same period, to nearly $750,000.

Larry Weinberg and Joseph Hunt, general counsel of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and general president of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers AFL-CIO, respectively, both saw their pay double as well.

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid has been banging on Mitt Romney to release more of his tax returns in the hope of exposing the Republican who will run for POTUS in November. In that spirit, I am asking Van Roekel, Weingarten and all the other teacher union leaders – who to the best of my knowledge have never done so – to release their tax returns. Seems to me that since their salary is being paid by taxpayers who in turn pay teachers – most of whom are forced to pay union dues – it is only proper that those who grouse about the rich not paying their “fair share” should show us all that they are being consistent and above board. So, how about it?!

I’m not holding my breath.

About the author: Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

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