When labor leaders travel in stretch limousines it sends something of a mixed message. So when Jack Ahern, current chief of the city’s powerful Central Labor Council, showed up in one at the St. Patrick’s Day parade in March, a few jaws dropped.
Last week, the jaws fell again when Ahern doubled his annual stipend for serving in the part-time post from $40,000 a year to $80,000.
For one thing, the labor council, which represents some 1.4 million union members, is supposed to be super-sensitive to these kinds of things since it is still recuperating from the mega-scandal surrounding past president Brian McLaughlin’s massive $3.1 million theft from the council and other organizations. McLaughlin is only now completing the first year of a ten-year prison hitch.
For another, the $80G’s from the council is in addition to what Ahern already collects from his own union, the International Union of Operating Engineers, which pays him $270,000 in salary and expenses as leader of Local 30 of the stationary engineers in Richmond Hill, Queens, and as an international union trustee.
There’s also the fact that Gary LaBarbera, the Teamsters union leader who served as council president after McLaughlin resigned, managed to do the job without collecting any extra pay.
“The added stipend was voted on and approved by the [council] executive board,” said spokesperson Carolyn Daly. “They said it is in recognition of Jack’s efforts, time, and commitment to the CLC.”
As for the stretch limo, associates said that Ahern used it to help transport a large contingent of family members who marched in the parade and for numerous “political stops” during the day.
The tab for the luxury vehicle will be examined by regular council auditors who scrutinize all expenses in the post-McLaughlin era, Daly said. If they reject it? “Then he’ll have to pay it himself,” she said.