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But many locals consistently spend far less. The Carpenters Union Local 630, for example, collected $382,000 in dues in 2011 and spent only $170 on representation. At the same time, it spent a quarter-million dollars on “overhead” and “administration.”

Bill Butler, corporate communications executive of the Sheet Metal Workers International Association, said a $1 million payout to retiring official Michael J. Sullivan was a one-time thing. “When he retired, he got a lump sum. That was part of a payment he was entitled to, and no one else is going to receive it,” he said.

Other unions justified high salaries for officers by likening them to CEOs of large corporations.

Galen Munroe, a spokesman for the Teamsters union, said it was on the members to take action if they deem salaries too high.

“This is public information, and it’s the members’ prerogative with this information in hand to vote officers in or out,” Mr. Munroe said.