Union Bosses & Their High-Flying Ways: Machinists union spent over $1.4 mil. on union-owned jet


Like the corporate “bosses” they so often hypocritically criticize, union bosses are often afforded a luxurious lifestyle.

However, unlike corporations who typically lead multi-billion dollar corporations, the “high life” of union bosses is paid for by the union dues of their union members.

fat-cat (1)

Back when unions were at their zenith, much like their corporate counterparts traveling for business reasons, it was not uncommon to eschew travel on commercial airlines.

Union bosses often flew around the country attending union conventions and union junkets in union-owned aircraft bought and paid for by union members’ dues.

Back then, one union president who had a home on a private island in Wisconsin reportedly used his union-owned jet to routinely fly him from Chicago to the union’s Washington DC headquarters, as well as to his home in Palm Springs.

With the exception of a few cases, however, those days are mostly gone.

As union began to drastically lose members through the 1980s and 90s, many unions were forced to get rid of their union-owned aircraft.

In 1991, as membership waned and Teamster members became more aware of their union bosses’ opulent lifestyle, over the objection of the “old guard,” Teamsters’ union-convention delegates voted to sell the union’s four jets.

Today, most union bosses use commercial airlines to fly around the county—most, but not all of them.

For example, the International Union of Operating Engineers in California was recently in the press for using its Cessna Citation XL Jet to fly former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis back and forth to Washington, DC during her 2009 confirmation hearings.

Aircraft owned by SoCal IUOE Local 12
Aircraft owned by SoCal IUOE Local 12
That union members’ dues are used to pay millions for the purchase of the aircraft itself is one thing. However, many union members may not realize the amount of dues money spent to operate and maintain their union’s aircraft.

The Machinists’ union is but one example of a union that, despite its losses in union membership, still pays a lot of its union members’ money to fly the union’s executives—mainly, the union’s president, Tom Buffenbarger—around the country.

Private jet owned by the Machinists union.
Private jet owned by the Machinists union.

According to the union’s most recent financial records on file with the U.S. Department of Labor, the Machinists’ union spent nearly $1.5 million on pilots, aircraft maintenance, hangar space, as well as fuel in 2013.

  • Pilot #1 2013 Total Compensation:     $167,893
  • Pilot #2 2013 Total Compensation:     $116,993
  • Co-Pilot 2013 Total Compensation:     $104,268
  • Aircraft Mechanic Total Comp. 2013:   $ 87,444
  • World Fuel Services*:  $282,645
  • Pratt & Whitney* $138,461
  • Gulfstream Aerospace* $134,545
  • Learjet, Inc* $103,865
  • CAE Simuflite Inc.* $ 46,200
  • Duncan Aviation Inc.* $ 29,556
  • Chantilly Air* $ 18,474
  • Bombardier Corporation* $ 10,483
  • Cosgrove Aircraft Service Inc.* $ 6,679
  • Landow Aviation Limited (hanger rental) $ 81,308
  • Colt International LLC $ 60,048
  • Universal Weather & Aviation $ 39,917
  • Avefuel Corporation $ 17,554
  • Uvair European Fueling $ 7,266

TOTAL: $1,453,599

* – Aircraft Maintenance Costs

Source:  Machinists’ 2013 LM2, U.S. Department of Labor

It appears that, while many union bosses have–out of necessity–changed their high-flying ways, others are still living lives of luxury at their members’ expense.

Related: Circa 2012


  1. While the text of the article and the information from the LM2 are correct I would like to note that at the last IAM Convention held in Toronto in 2012 the issue of the jet was put to the delegates who were elected by their local lodges. The delegates overwhelmingly decided to keep the jet so that our leadership could service the membership of our international union. I have been an IAM member for 25 years, a Recording Secretary of my local lodge for 8 years, and a Communicator for my district for 2 years. I will tell you that the Intentional Association of Machinists and Aerospace workers is a democratically run organization that puts servicing the members first. Our officers, from the shop floor to the Grand Lodge, are elected by the membership and the membership approves contracts, bylaws, and expenditures.


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