The Institute received a question: How much dues income do unions receive?  Based on available information, our conservative estimate and answer to the question is:  U.S. labor unions receive at least $14 Billion from dues, forced-fees, and assessments per year via Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs).

It is worth noting that dues and forced-dues are not the only source of income streams for labor unions.  Labor unions also receive hundreds of millions of dollars per year as vendors for the federal government “training programs” and “green programs.”  Labor unions receive even more through state programs that specifically and indirectly re ward labor unions with government contracts.

For example, many Job Corps Programs created under President Bill Clinton and accelerated under President Barack Obama reward labor unions with Job Corps grants.  Job Corps grants are only the tip of an iceberg. President Obama’s Green Jobs Program also transfers hundreds of millions of dollars into labor union coffers.   In addition, Unions control numerous assets and receive income from investments and sales of assets. 

Estimate Calculation

There are no direct methods to calculate total dues received without opening labor unions’ enigmatic financial records.   However, there are some sources available that allow reasonable estimate.   

First, the U.S. Department of Labor’s (USDOL) union financial records from Forms LM-2 and LM-3 (UnionReports.gov) provide dues, forced-fees, and assessments received by all unions with collective bargaining agreements covering private sector and federal unions.  But most state and local government unions, such as teacher unions and fire fighter unions, do not report to U.S. DOL.  Therefore, DOL reports are only part of the total dues number.  The 2010 records were used since some unions had not filed their or the USDOL had not posted the reports by 3/28/2012 the time of the calculation. 

USDOL Total Dues:  $9,334,458,504 (includes netted per capita tax numbers, per capita taxes are the fees unions kick up to international unions on a per head basis)

Second, Barry T. Hirsch and David A. Macpherson provide union data that includes their estimate of total U.S. union members in several categories including state and local government unions. 

2011 Hirsh & MacPherson’s combined state and local government union members:  6,547,500

Third, an estimate for average annual dues was needed.  The National Institute for Labor Relations Research expert Stan Greer provided 1.5% as a commonly used dues percentage of income and $1,096 as the national average of public sector weekly incomes. 

2011 estimated annual public sector dues:  $ 854.88

Based upon the above calculations, the following formula produced our annual labor dues income estimate.

 

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