The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America and its affiliates are among the more numerous of the construction industry unions in Michigan, and their Michigan regional council has advertised extensively on cable television in the state. By our estimates, the Carpenters union is easily among the biggest spenders in the union movement, at least on a per-member basis. The total per-member spending for the local, intermediate and national organization is $1,509.82.[64] While per-member spending for all unions is substantial, a total of $400 to $700 is more typical. None of the other unions we looked at had total per-member expenditures in excess of $1,000.

Finding a representative Carpenters local in Michigan is greatly simplified by the fact that only Local 1102 in Warren, filed an LM-2 form in 2006. None of the other Carpenters locals in Michigan had sufficient disbursements to warrant filing an LM-2.

Local 1102 spent $300.90 per member in 2006, 19.9 percent of the total. Its members might wonder why any of this was needed since more than three quarters of that $300 went into overhead, while only 6.6 percent - one fifteenth - of the local's spending was dedicated to representation.[65] This would appear to be an extremely inefficient operation.

These spending figures were greatly influenced by the manner in which personnel allocated their time. According to its LM-2 report, the local's staff is more or less evenly divided between officers and employees. While most of the local's officers (president, vice president, treasurer, etc.) reported that a majority of their time was spent on representation tasks, their compensation was relatively low.[66] The local's employees (secretaries, bookkeepers and one business agent) were more highly compensated, while they reported no representational activity. The overwhelming majority of employee time was dedicated to general overhead, with some time also allocated to administration.[67]

We decided to use this LM-2 because, unlike the AFSCME locals discussed earlier, there is some indication that Carpenters Local 1102 did make an effort to differentiate between uses of staff time.[68] This peculiar time allocation, while not as extreme as that of the AFSCME locals, should be borne in mind as the Carpenters spending is evaluated.

Graphic 27: Carpenters Local 1102 (19.9 Percent of Total) - click to enlarge

The Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights, headquartered in Detroit, had the highest per-member spending of any union organization (local, intermediate or national) that we reviewed. With disbursements of over $18.6 million for a membership of less than 18,000, the Michigan Regional Council spent $1,054.19 per member, more than the total (including local, intermediate and national) for any other union. The regional council is responsible for nearly 70 percent of per-member spending by the Carpenters union.

Compared to Local 1102, the Regional Council is much more focused on representation, with 48.9 percent of spending going into that function. Overhead costs making up 34.4 percent of spending are higher than most union organizations, but closer to normal.[69]

Graphic 28: Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights (69.8 Percent of Total) - click to enlarge

The National Headquarters of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners spends $154.92 for each of its 523,000 members, making up around 10 percent of overall spending. As is the case with the local, the national headquarters has little to do with representation; only 11.1 percent of their spending falls into that category. By comparison, contributions, gifts and grants make up a somewhat larger portion (14.3 percent) of the national union's expenditures. Unlike other unions, relatively few of the donations made by the Carpenters union went to obviously political groups. Most of the itemized contributions were given to various construction trade unions.

But the largest portion of the Carpenters spending was overhead, which took up more than a third of the national headquarters spending, while administration accounted for another 12 percent. The Carpenters national headquarters is also notable for having more than a quarter of its spending going into purchases of fixed assets and investments, the highest rate of any LM-2 report we examined.[70] With overhead and administrative costs exceeding representation by a factor of four-to-one, the national headquarters of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners appears to be afflicted by extreme waste.

Graphic 29: (National) United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (10.3 Percent of Total) - click to enlarge

Fortunately for its members, the more severely bloated levels of the Carpenters union appear to be responsible for less than half of the Carpenters Union spending. Still, representation makes up less than half of the spending for every level of the Carpenters union, and less than 40 percent of spending for the Carpenters overall. In fact, we estimate that more of a typical Michigan Carpenter's dues will go into overhead than into representation.[71] Of the unions that we reviewed, only MEA/NEA makes less efficient use of their members' dues. Our summary appears in Graphic 30.

Graphic 30: Summary of National, Regional and Local Spending, UBCJA - click to enlarge


[64] Author's calculations based on LM-2 form for 2006 filed by Carpenters Local 1102, Michigan Regional Council, and National Headquarters.

[65] Author's calculations based on LM-2 form for 2006 filed by Carpenters Local 1102.

[66] Several Local 1102 officers were also listed as officers or employees of the Michigan Regional Council, where they received much higher compensation. For the purposes of this report, we will assume that their time allocations and compensation for both positions were accurate.

[67] LM-2 form for 2006 field by Carpenters Local 1102, Schedules 11 and 12.

[68] This is in contrast to the rejected AFSCME local reports, in which all staff time was attributed to one functional category.  In two reports that category was administration, and in a third it was representation.

[69] Author's calculations based on LM-2 form for 2006 filed by the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights.

[70] Author's calculations based on LM-2 form for 2006 filed by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.

[71] Author's calculations based on LM-2 forms for 2006 filed by Carpenters Local 1102, Michigan Regional Council, and National Headquarters.