The State of Government Union Leaders? Overreaching and Overpaid.


After the 2016 election, on which the SEIU spent lavish sums on very partisan, far-left candidates and issue-advocacy, Mary Kay Henry, the national president of the SEIU, put her $300 million national operation on notice.

According to a memo that Bloomberg got a copy of, the SEIU will immediately cut 10 percent of its budget, and plan for a 30% reduction by the start of 2018. Henry said the union must prepare for the 2018 midterm elections in addition to the 2020 cycle, arguing that it must “focus our resources and energy on the fights that position us to retake power in 2018, 2020 and beyond.”

If you ever needed clear evidence that the SEIU is really a political organization masquerading as a labor union, this is it.

Will any of the members of the SEIU who pay dues to SEIU demand that Mary Kay Henry reduce her own compensation ($295,870)? What about the other executive salaries, all of which are more than $200,000 a year?

Does this news from SEIU signal a decline in the spending power of unions?

A recent report from a left-leaning research consortium, “The State of Unions 2016,” decried the fact that, “unionization has declined in Minnesota, in the Twin Cities region, and in America…The decline in union membership has occurred in both the public sector and the private sector in Minnesota.” (BLS Data)

The report on the overall decline of unions combined with the budget cuts at unions like the SEIU masks the fact that Minnesota’s public sector has one of the highest rates of unionization in the nation (around 50% if you include municipal and state government). The big decline is happening in the private sector (now at about 8 percent of the private labor market). And keep in mind that the rate of unionization does not tell us anything about how much government unions are collecting in dues: under current law public sector unions do not have to tell us much of anything.

This means the political left has a steady and massive source of unreported cash to spend on candidates and lobbying: that cash of course comes directly from taxpayers, that then gets sanitized as “dues” which are forcibly taken out of paychecks and directly deposited into union coffers by the government. Public employees never see the cash.

The political left has also figured out a new and clever way to increase its membership and revenue: simply declare that people who get paid with welfare money are new “public employees”—but only so they can “collectively bargain” (e.g. pay dues). These “public employees” do not actually get any other benefits unless they are granted under the particular welfare program. Given Minnesota’s generous approach to welfare, this is a business model with potential for growth.

But perhaps the political left has overreached; was tapping welfare payments for unions a bridge too far?

As you have probably heard by now, Governor Dayton, helped the SEIU unionize personal care attendants (PCAs) who care for the disabled in their homes under a Medicaid program. SEIU snuck in with just thirteen percent (13%) of PCAs voting in favor of the union. The other eighty-seven percent (87%) is now pushing back with a decertification effort (update on that coming soon).

Dayton tried to do the same thing with in-home child care providers who take low-income kids but failed in the face of stiff opposition from child care providers and allies like the Center.

PCAs now “represented” by SEIU Healthcare Minnesota/Local 113 are paying big dues: three percent (3%) of gross wages up to $948 a year. We estimate this is generating $4.7 million a year for SEIU. Some of that money, which comes from Medicaid and the paychecks of low-income PCAs, is used to pay SEIU’s executives.

The SEIU Healthcare Minnesota/Local 113 executives are not paid as well as Mary Kay Henry at national, but it employs about 88 people, some of whom we have gotten to know quite well during the PCA union decertification effort. Here are the stats from the 990 filed as of 2015 (pretty good pay for political work):

[Union Facts for SEIU Healthcare Minnesota Local 113]

With the help of thousands of PCAs all over the state and their attorney Doug Seaton, we are forcing the SEIU to spend some of that money to fight our effort to decertify the SEIU. Perhaps Local 113 will have to issue a memo of its own announcing budget cuts in 2017.

Or perhaps Local 113 will get a memo from their boss Mary Kay Henry seeking some of those new PCA funds to plug her big budget shortfall.