The International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents a fairly typical spending profile and its spending on the core representation function is higher than average. Our review of itemized expenditures found no unusual or questionable patterns.
We examined spending at three separate Michigan-based locals: No. 337 in Detroit, No. 243 in Plymouth and No. 406 in Grand Rapids.[*] Total expenditures ranged from $1.3 million to $2.7 million, and spending per member for all three was fairly close, ranging from $326.63 to $384.91, with an average per-member figure of $357.57. The Teamsters union appears to have most of its spending concentrated at the local level; going by per-member spending figures for local, intermediate and national headquarters, 67.5 percent of Teamsters union dues (out of a total of $529.91 per member for local, joint council and national headquarters) are spent at the local level.
Compared to other unions we studied, Teamsters locals in Michigan appear to spend a respectable amount on representation: 61.9 percent. This number was partly due to Local 337, where better than 71 percent of dues went into the representation function. The figures for the other two locals were somewhat lower, but all three claimed representation spending in excess of 55 percent. Overhead was the second-largest item for all three locals, averaging 25.3 percent overall. Local spending on the "administrative" function — which in this context refers to union internal governance, including conventions and internal discipline — was 8.4 percent, a relatively modest amount compared to that of other union groups.
One odd feature of all three Teamsters locals was that they reported between $60,000 and $110,000 in "Steward Dues" paid to themselves and listed as a cost of representation. These steward dues payments made up nearly 10 percent of representation spending for all three locals. These locals apparently pay the cost of union dues for at least some stewards - a perfectly reasonable policy - but treating all of the forgone dues as a representation cost may overstate the case. We do not have time allocations for any of the stewards, so we have no verification that 100 percent of their forgone dues payments should be treated as representation.
Teamsters Joint Council 43, headquartered in Detroit, is the statewide Teamsters affiliate for Michigan. According to its LM-2 form, Joint Council 43 takes up a modest portion of Teamsters spending in Michigan, with total spending of a little more than $1.8 million for nearly 51,000 members. That breaks down to $36.83 per member or just 7 percent of overall spending per member. Joint Council 43 claims to do less representation work than any of the Teamsters locals we reviewed, with just 47.4 percent of spending recorded under this category. Representation is still the largest single item, but political activism becomes more prevalent at this level, making up 21.4 percent of the overall budget for Joint Council 43.
Teamsters National Headquarters in Washington D.C., accounts for $135.51 of spending per member, 25.6 percent of the total. At this level, representation makes up a relatively modest portion of overall spending, 36.6 percent, although representation remains the largest functional category. Union administration is the second largest item, taking up 26.5 percent of spending.
At the national headquarters level, all of the unions reviewed submitted reports of more than 100 pages, with extensive listings of itemized disbursements. We took advantage of this level of detail to perform a second analysis of union itemized expenditures, focusing on the representation category only. Itemized representation expenditures were broken down into the following subcategories: overhead, legal, research and staff training, printing, entertainment, travel, transfers to subsidiaries, suspect (possibly political), organizing and unclassifiable. These subcategories provide a better sense of what materials and services unions purchase under the representation rubric. We also factored in personnel costs - covering compensation costs for officers and staff, and including benefit costs - according to the percentage of staff time dedicated to representation, as well as non-itemized expenditures ("other") attributed to representation.[†] The results of this are as follows:
Wages and benefits for officers and staff made up the majority of representation by the Teamsters National Headquarters, with transfers to locals and joint councils making up the largest part of the remainder. Unfortunately, while we can identify specific Teamsters subsidiaries that received assistance from the Teamsters national headquarters, there is little we can tell about what form that assistance took - that is, whether it was legal or consulting work, or whether it pertained to collective bargaining, a grievance or some other aspect of representation.
There was little evidence that the Teamsters union attempted to classify political activity as representational, at least not in terms of purchases of goods and services.
Graphic 5 presents a summary of Teamster spending at the local, joint council and national level according to their LM-2 forms, as well as a combined figure that represents our best estimate of the percentage of union dues that go to the various union functions. As noted earlier, local spending is estimated by LM-2 statistics for Teamsters Locals 243, 337 and 406.
 Author's calculations based on LM-2 forms for 2006 filed by Teamsters Locals 337, 243 and 406.
LM-2 forms for 2006 filed by Teamsters Locals 337, 243 and 406.
LM-2 forms for 2006 filed by Teamsters Joint Council 43.
LM-2 forms for 2006 filed by Teamsters National Headquarters.
[*] A fourth, local 299 which is also located in Detroit, was rejected because of three NLRB settlements (treated as representation expenses) totaling $155,000 as representation expenses. These settlements made up more than 10 percent of the local's representation spending during 2006. None of the other locals we examined in any union reported NLRB settlements of this magnitude, and most had no NLRB settlements at all. Officials of Local 299 failed to respond to our inquiries.
[†] Generally speaking, overhead includes rent, office supplies, utilities and meeting costs. Legal covers all direct payments to attorneys and arbitrators. Research includes most consultants, as well as staff training. Entertainment includes most meals and food service unless the entry included some indication that the food service was related to training or travel. Travel includes all payments to air carriers and payments to hotels unless the entry indicates that the hotel was the site of a meeting. Transfers to affiliates does not include transfers to union federations (such as Change to Win or the AFL-CIO) or to affiliated groups, such as union PACS, that are not expectedrequired to file an LM form. Unclassifiable entries were items thatfor which we were unable to determine a purpose for. The "suspect" category covers items we considered likely to be political; these consist mainly of payments to organizations with a definite political agenda and in some cases public relations firms that specialize in political campaign work. The categories were occasionally adjusted to account for the peculiarities of a given union's itemized expenditures. Different unions varied considerably in the level of detail and manner in which they described expenditures, but we made every effort to remain consistent in our treatment of union spending.