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Oregon’s Highest Paid Union Bosses

Tuesday, June 02, 2015


In the midst of a national decline, membership in Oregon's labor unions is on the rise. Moreover, while membership is thriving, so are the salaries of some of the state's largest union leaders - many of whom are making six-figure salaries, or double or triple the average salary of the workers they are paid to represent. 

Ten leaders of the state’s largest union, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), are receiving more than $100,000 annually. Similarly, Oregon’s chapter of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) also has 10 leaders earning six-figures, despite having fewer than half the members and significantly less financial assets of their peer union, SEIU.   

“They get those salaries because they can,” said senior policy analyst Steve Buckstein of the Cascade Policy Institute, a free-market think-tank based in Oregon. “Where you have economic power, you use it to maximize your own salaries, and [those salaries] are the result.”

Growing Economic Power

This growing economic power could be linked to the rising rate of union membership in Oregon, which has bucked the national trend of stagnation and decline. In 2014, union members accounted for 15.6 percent of wage and salary workers in Oregon, compared to 13.9 percent in 2013, according to statistics released this year by the U.S. Department of Labor. This is over a 12 percent increase in membership in one year.

“With more members, there is more infrastructure and more power to collectively bargain, especially if you’re looking to set a high standard of wages and working conditions,” said Russel Sanders, communications director of Oregon AFL-CIO, a federation of the state’s labor unions.

“If you look at Washington, Oregon, and California, the coastal Pacific Northwest states, there has been a political climate that is more favorable towards unions,” said Bob Bussel, director of the Labor Education and Research Center at the University of Oregon. “As unions expand their membership, they provide more and more services on behalf of their members, and to be a leader of an organization like that is an enormous amount of responsibility… I think it really does have some of the trappings of a job akin to what a CEO would have in the corporate world.”

Contrary to the “mushrooming” salaries of CEOs in the private sector, union leaders’ salaries often stay within two or three times the amount of their average member. Though many earn over twice the state median salary of $46,850, Bussel says that most union members would say the benefits and protections they are provided with is worth what they must pay in dues.

“To work at the executive level of union leadership is a lot negotiating contracts, political work, and administration and organization work,” Bussel said. “With the amount of hours, nights, and weekends they put in, it’s quite a rigorous job.”

In contrast, Buckstein argues that union leaders’ salaries are taking advantage of Oregon’s “fair share” workers, or those who do not belong to a union but are still required to the costs of union representation.

“CEOs and union leaders get their salaries approved by their boards,” Buckstein said. “The difference is, nobody is required to buy products from corporations in the private sector. But those that don’t want to belong still pay dues to the union leaders.”

Buckstein cited a poll conducted for the National Employee Freedom Week, which asked adults across the country if employees should have the right to decide whether or not to join a union. Of the 500 respondents from Oregon, 84 percent voted yes.

“It’s simply unfair for unions to require people to pay dues who don’t want to pay dues and don’t want to be represented by a union,” Buckstein said.

Oregon’s two largest unions, SEIU and AFSCME, both stopped collecting “fair share” dues in July after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against them in a case involving home-care workers in Illinois. For most unions in Oregon, however, “fair share” dues are still in place, and the odds of that changing in the state legislature is slim, Buckstein says.

“The majority of legislators would definitely be opposed [to a legislative change], but in the future, hopefully there will be an initiative that would make Oregon a “right-to-work” state,” Buckstein said. “We don’t want to create more rules and regulations regarding what unions do, but we want to allow the freedom for workers to pay or not pay their dues.”

Cutting mandatory dues would be a “serious political blow” to Oregon’s labor unions, Bussel said. Without compulsory fees, union membership rates would likely cease to rise – and, in fact, start to decline. Additionally, with less revenue coming from membership dues, salaries for those in executive positions might also start to decline.

But opponents of this argument say that declining membership would actually hurt union members the most – not their high-paid union presidents or executive directors.

 “We are absolutely opposed to any ballot measure that would make Oregon a “fair share” state,” Sanders said. “Any time there’s a ballot measure that seeks to reduce power of the unions, that’s not something that we’re going to be in favor of.”


Related Slideshow: Highest Paydays at Oregon’s 25 Largest Unions

These salaries reflect the most recent financial filings by these unions, and may have since been changed. 

Prev Next


John Hall

Union: Machinists AFL-CIO (2,345 members)

Position: Secretary/Treasurer

Salary: $22,969

Prev Next


Stanley White

Union: Teamsters, Local Union 206 (2,680 members)

Position: Secretary/Treasurer 

Salary: $81,049

Prev Next


Randy Ficek

Union: Teamsters, Local Union 670 (3,253 members)

Position: President

Salary: $125,876

Prev Next


Travis Eri

Union: IBEW, Local Union 125 (3,295 members)

Position: Business Manager/Financiel Secretary

Salary: $166,852

Prev Next


Deirdre Mahoney-Clark

Union: AFSCME, Local Union 88 (3,303 members)

Position: President

Salary: $8,358

Prev Next


Greg Held

Union: Laborers District Council (3,355 members)

Position: Business Manager/Secretary/Treasurer

Salary: $229,404

Prev Next


Nelda Wilson

Union: Operating Engineers, Local Union 701 (3,388 members)

Position: Business Manager

Salary: $137,999

Prev Next


Tammy Hawes

Union: Carpenters, Local Union 156 (3,570 members)

Position: Secretary

Salary: $27,518

Prev Next


Anthony Andrews

Union: Teamsters, Local Union 305 (3,576 members)

Position: Secretary/Treasurer

Salary: $115,370

Prev Next


Fritz Shropshire

Union: Plumbers, Local Union 290 (4,179 members)

Position: Business Manager

Salary: $139,910

Prev Next


Edward Burke

Union: Teachers Union 5017

Position: Executive Director

Salary: $127,532

Prev Next


Gary Young

Union: IBEW, Local Union 48 (4,498 members)

Position: Business Manager/Financial Secretary

Salary: $119,851

Prev Next


Gregory Jones

Union: Pulp & Paper Workers (4,657 members)

Position: Area Representative

Salary: $122,329

Prev Next


Jonathan Hunt

Union: Transit Union AFL-CIO (4,847 members)

Position: Vice-President

Salary: $122,510

Prev Next


Mark Davison

Union: Teamsters, Local Union 162

Position: President

Salary: $111,370

Prev Next


Ramon Ramirez

Union: Pineros y Campesinos Unidos (6,370 members)

Position: Senior Staff

Salary: $50,816

Prev Next


Stacy James

Union: Machinists AFL-CIO District Lodge (5,667 members)

Position: Joint Programs Administrator

Salary: $134,560

Prev Next


David Rives

Union: Teachers AFL-CIO 8035 (7,600 members)

Position: President

Salary: $107,216

Prev Next


Paul Goldberg

Union: Teachers AFL-CIO 5905 (11,016 members)

Position: Labor Representative

Salary: $184,126

Prev Next


Magdelaine Long

Union: Service Employees, Local Union 49 (11,115 members)

Position: Organizing Director

Salary: $110,215

Prev Next


Tony Hadley

Union: Carpenters, District Council (13,208 members)

Position: Executive Secretary/Treasurer

Salary: $147,147

Prev Next


Rick Shidaker

Union: Classified School Employees (18,581 members)

Position: Director of Field Operations/Executive Director

Salary: $111,687

Prev Next


Daniel Clay

Union: Food & Commercial Workers

Position: President

Salary: $117,357

Prev Next


Mary Botkin

Union: Oregon AFSCME (23,582 members)

Position: Political Coordinator

Salary: $154,821

Prev Next


Arthur Towers

Union: SEIU, Local Union 503 (52,357 members)

Position: Former Political Director

Salary: $125,400


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