Why Americans Love Unions (and Politicians)

By Clive Crook

How to retire at 50 from a $56,000 public-sector job and collect $5m in taxpayer-funded pension. (Thanks to James Taranto for the link.) The Chicago Tribune reports on some pretty impressive financial engineering:

Liberato "Al" Naimoli, president of the Cement Workers Union Local 76. He retired last year from a $15,000-a-year city job that he last held a quarter-century ago. Today, Naimoli receives more than $13,000 a month from the city laborers' pension fund even as he continues to earn nearly $300,000 annually as president of Local 76. His city laborers' pension will pay him about $4 million during his lifetime, according to a Tribune/WGN-TV analysis based on the funds' actuarial assumptions.

James McNally, vice president of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150. He receives nearly $115,000 a year even though at the time he retired, in 2008, he had not worked for the city in more than 13 years. He was only 51 when he started collecting a city pension. By the time he turns 78, he will have received roughly $4 million from the city laborers' fund.

Dennis Gannon, former president of the Chicago Federation of Labor. In 2004, he began receiving more than $150,000 a year after retiring at age 50 from a $56,000-a-year city job that he had left nearly 13 years earlier. He received his city pension while collecting a salary of about $200,000 from the federation. During his lifetime, the city municipal pension fund will pay him approximately $5 million. Gannon told the Tribune that he was only following the law in filing for a city pension.

The liberal reaction to stories like this is to say, "Small beer compared to Wall Street." That's true--but politically it's still a dumb reaction. The mistake is to think that expressing anger about such stories only plays into conservatives' hands. It's just the opposite: what plays into conservatives' hands is failing to express anger. A little bit of fury from prominent progressives over cases like this would do the left a world of good. Let me know if you ever see any.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/09/why-americans-love-unions-and-politicians/245532/