Maryland's Fair Share Act is to fair what Liberace is to understated.
The 2009 law mandating that all state employees pay union dues regardless of whether they belong to the union is, however, a huge boon to the bottom line of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, according to IRS records.
Revenue at the largest state employee union rose from $5.1 million to $8.8 million in a year, according to its Form 990 returns from 2010 and 2011 at Guidestar.org. (AFSCME does not make its tax forms available on its website, http://www.afscmemd.org/.) The union did not start collecting dues from nonmembers under its jurisdiction until July 2011.
Contrary to union officials' statements at the time of the law's passage that the money would be targeted to improve services for all employees, the tax records show the vast majority of the increase went to hiking union employees' salaries and toward higher affiliate payments to state and local unions and the national parent organization.
Salaries and other employee benefits rose $500,000 in a year, for example — an average increase of over $10,500 per employee. In percentage terms, it works out to an average 21 percent raise. No key employees were listed on the 2010 and 2011 IRS forms as making over $100,000 per year, but according to Maryland AFSCME spokesman Jeff Pittman, some officials at the union now make more than $100,000. He said salaries were raised because, "a wage study was conducted in 2011, and we found that many of our employees were undercompensated compared to similar organizations."
He declined to give the names or number of officials earning more than $100,000. According to Maryland Reporter, only 6 percent of state employees make that amount or greater. In that same Maryland Reporter article, published May 14, Mr. Pittman said, "For state employees, non-teachers, the average is around $41,000 a year, so they definitely look at these [high salaries] and it raises their eyebrows." I wonder what AFSCME members and all those paying their salaries think of union leaders becoming part of that elite club?
In regard to affiliate fees, they rose almost $2 million, year over year, to $3.8 million. Affiliate payments are those made to local unions, its parent organization AFSCME International Union and the AFL-CIO affiliates it supports. About 70 percent of the payments support state and local affiliates, and 30 percent goes to AFSCME International, according to Mr. Pittman. Applying that ratio to the 2011 tax data means about $1.1 million of state employee dues supported out-of-state causes in only one year, much of it the result of coerced union dues from nonmembers. I wonder how Maryland state employees would have spent that cash if it hadn't, for example, been needed more urgently in, say, Wisconsin?
Where else did the union spend its windfall? A review of the 2010 and 2011 tax forms shows AFSCME's travel budget rose 38 percent, to $118,000; its conference budget rose 26 percent, to $140,000; and payments into employee pension funds rose 91 percent, to $68,000 year over year. Payroll taxes increased 21 percent because of higher wages. It also probably had to pay some big bills, as its 2010 tax forms note that expenses exceeded revenues by over $325,000 for that tax year.
What about those extra services promised by the union? According to Mr. Pittman, "AFSCME Maryland 3 increased the number of staff over the past several years to enforce contract rights and work with management of the various agencies our members work in to resolve workplace challenges in a mutually agreeable way through Labor Management Committees (LMCs)."
With union membership nationally hitting a trough — at 11.3 percent in 2012, it is the lowest percentage in 76 years — AFSCME can be happy it is on the receiving end of political largesse not present elsewhere. But there is nothing fair in a law that coerces those who don't want to be a part of an organization to pay for it. It would be like the Vatican exacting monthly tithes from non-Catholics for representation before God. So let's start calling the legislation for what it is: "The More Money and Power for Unions and the Democrats They Support Law."
Marta H. Mossburg is a Baltimore-area writer whose work appears regularly in The Sun. Her email is email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @mmossburg.