How Teamster Officer Salaries Dramatically Changed—and Why

Top Teamster officials once paid themselves nearly $2 million a year in today’s dollars. TDU, the right to vote, and leaders who put members first have brought salaries in line with the rest of the labor movement.

When Ron Carey was elected General President in the first ever one member one vote election, his first announcement was that he would cut his own salary to $150,000 in 1992. It signaled a new day in the Teamsters.

A few years earlier, IBT President Jackie Presser had a salary of $755,474, which would be a whopping $1,900,357 in today’s dollars.

You can click here to access the latest listing of Teamster salaries compiled by TDU.

What Made This Change?

What made top Teamster officials stop paying themselves like CEOs?

  1. Informed Members. TDU ended the information blackout by publishing the salaries of the highest paid officers. Many members were appalled by inflated salaries and perks like private jets owned by the union.

  2. The Right to Vote. In March 1989, TDU helped win the Right to Vote for all International officers, and we still have that right. When the election season opened in 1989, TDU issued leaflets revealing that International Vice president Arnie Weinmeister made $398,863 ($966,602 in today’s dollars) and General Secretary Treasurer Weldon Mathis made $284,195 ($688,716 in today’s dollars). Both of them withdrew from running in the 1991 first-ever membership vote.

  3. Constitutional Changes: The IBT Constitution was amended at the 1991 IBT Convention in Orlando. Under pressure by members and Ron Carey’s campaign, the dominant incumbent group agreed to support an amendment to limit the General President to $225,000, and that other IBT officers could not go higher. A cost-of-living clause has allowed General President Hoffa’s salary to rise to $328,972 after 22 years in office.

  4. Leadership by Example: Carey lowered his own salary, to help set a standard. Carey’s salary of $150,000 in 1992 is worth $279,996 in today’s dollars, according to the Department of Labor’s inflation calculator. So, the standard set by Ron Carey is very close to where top salaries are today, taking into account inflation.

What a Change!

Presser and other top Teamster officials of the 1980s compared themselves to corporate executives and argued they should have corporate salaries and corporate jets to use for golf outings and to resorts.  

Today, CEOs of Teamster employers such as Coca Cola, Waste Management, UPS, or Kroger have bloated compensation of $11 million to $20 million a year, many times more than Teamster leaders. 

We are not a corporation.  We are a movement of working people.  Our leaders should reflect those values and fight like hell to advance our members, not themselves.   

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