Union boss John Niccollai took in $600,000 last year, and thousands of New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania workers helped pay him.
Niccollai is president of United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 464A, a New Jersey-based union representing nearly 16,000 workers in grocery stores and the food service industry.
In total, Niccollai was paid $600,339 last year — including his $573,299 UFCW 464A salary, other disbursements, and money he received as a vice president of UFCW headquarters in Washington, D.C.
How does Niccollai stack up against the workers who pay his salary?
The average food preparation and serving worker in New Jersey was paid $24,320 last year. The average cashier made $21,530, and the average meat packer got $25,960.
Niccollai was paid about 25 times as much as the full-time workers contributing to his salary — and most of UFCW 464A's members don't work full-time.
UFCW 464A took $445 per member from 10,603 part-time workers and $497 per member from 4,989 full-time workers last year, not including initiation fees.
Setting aside the money Niccollai got from UFCW headquarters, his 2014 pay would break down to more than $35 from every UFCW 464A member.
UFCW 464A did not respond to a Watchdog.org request for comment on how union compensation is determined and disclosed to members.
Niccollai's father was a UFCW 464A officer for decades. Niccollai's son, John Niccollai III, was paid $250,835 last year as UFCW 464A's operations director.
Alluding to questions about union boss pay, an undated release on the UFCW 464A website told members to beware of "Anti-Union radicals posing as journalists in a concerted effort to destroy the Labor Movement."
"The Radicals contend Union Leaders are grossly overpaid," UFCW 464A explained. "When we compare the salaries of Union Leaders to that of their Corporate equals, the argument is utterly absurd and without one shred of merit."
"The reason these radicals are making Union Leaders' wages an issue is clearly intended to build dissension in the ranks," UFCW 464A added.
At a 2014 meeting, Niccollai warned UFCW 464A members about an "assault" on labor unions by "the greedy few."
"Our numbers are being threatened by those who wish to concentrate the wealth of our nation into the hands of a small few at the expense of the middle class," Niccollai said.
Niccollai's compensation is an extreme example of a state and national trend.
"In Pennsylvania, there is often a wide gap between union leaders and the rank and file," Elizabeth Stelle, policy director for the free-market Commonwealth Foundation, said in an email to Watchdog.org.
"UFCW President Wendell Young IV pulls in more than $330,000 a year, while the average liquor store clerk earns a salary of $31,700," Stelle said. "It's one thing for union members to choose to pay their leaders well, it's another thing when the dues used to pay these high salaries are forced."
Because the current system benefits the union, UFCW and its affiliates have spent big money fighting efforts to break Pennsylvania's state monopoly on the sale of alcohol.
"It's taxpayer-subsidized dues collection that allows union bosses to collect hefty salaries, a privilege no other political organization enjoys," Stelle told Watchdog.org.
Jason Hart is Watchdog.org's Ohio-based National Labor Reporter. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @jasonahart.
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