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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Thursday, March 03, 2011

A tale of two headlines

by folkbum

Headline A:

Headline B:

(Click the images for the full stories.)

Missing from Headline A is an actual number. Anyone reading that headline without reading the story accompanying it might imagine that union leaders' compensation is massive and indefensible. In fact, the largest salary listed under headline A is $618,000, about 14% of Curt Culver's annual salary. And, if you didn't read beyond headline B, you wouldn't know that Culver's company lost money last year, even as his salary increased.

In addition, the high-salary union leader, head of the Laborers' International Union of North America, leads a union of 12 million members. MGIC has fewer than 1000 employees. The union leader earns just five cents per member, while Culver earns somewhere north of $4000 per employee.

(Also missing from Headline B: The fact that Culver gives overwhelmingly (though not exclusively) to Republicans.)

The thrust of this, of course, is that somehow the unions and union leaders are shady fatcats who don't represent the image or ideal of a working-class union man. In reality, union leaders make much, much less than the heads of comparable private-sector organizations. Yes, someone earning $600k a year earns a lot more than any one of the people he represents, as much as 10 or 12 times, in fact. But boss-to-worker ratios in the private sector are closer to 300 to 1. One of those two numbers is obscene and deserves attention and scorn--just not the one our tale of two headlines suggests.

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