The president of the nation’s largest public-sector employee union spent about $325,000 on chartered planes over the last two years, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
Citing internal union expense reports, the Journal says that Gerald McEntee, outgoing president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), took 18 trips on private jets since the beginning of 2010.
The news comes just as McEntee prepares to retire after three decades in one of the labor movement's most powerful posts. The union has struggled recently to combat budget cuts affecting public workers, as well as aggressive assaults on collective bargaining in states such as Wisconsin and Ohio.
The documents may also shake up a contentious race to replace the soon-to-retire union chief. McEntee announced last year that he would be stepping down as president of the union this month, and his hand-picked successor, AFSCME Secretary-Treasurer Lee Saunders, faces challenger Don Donohue, president of the union’s New York-based Local 1000 in an election slated for June 21.
Donohue’s campaign, which is already calling to cut the salaries of AFSCME’s top two executives by $100,000, quickly pounced on the travel expenses.
"Whatever the national officers' rationale may have been for relying so heavily on charter jets in the past, we believe this practice must end immediately," the campaign told the Journal on Friday.