Corporate greed soars but workers are grounded

Stickers are stacked at the annual Labor Day picnic hosted by the Area Labor Council at Hawkeye Downs in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Sept. 2, 2019. Union members, their family members and supporters gathered for grilled brats, hot dogs, coleslaw, and ice cream served by local government officials. Several presidential candidates stopped in to greet constituents as well. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

The AFL-CIO has completed its annual CEO’s Paywatch and, once again, CEOs were drastically overpaid in the United States and workers drew the short straw.

In 2019, CEO’s of S & P 500 companies received, on average, $14.8 million in total compensation. The average S & P 500 company CEO-to-worker pay ratio was 264:1.

The amount the average S & P 500 CEO is paid has increased in the past decade $3.4 million, while the average U.S. production and nonsupervisory workers pay has increased over that period $8,360.

In Iowa alone, the average S & P 500 CEO pay was $14,748,051, while average worker pay was $44,126.00. That is a 334:1 ratio. In the Russell 3000, which represents the entire U.S. stock market, CEO pay was $2.88 million for a 65:1 ratio.

Some CEOs received additional awards of restricted stock and stock options just weeks before they announced furloughs and executive pay cuts due to COVID-19 in 2020, Abercrombie & Fitch’s CEO was handed 240,701 shares of restricted stock.

Burlington Stores’ CEO was paid $35.09 million, while the; median wage for employees at that company was $11,583. That is a 3,030:1 ratio. Burlington Stores furloughed workers in 2020 as well.

Many CEOs who head companies with the highest ratio of CEO pay to median employee pay were retail companies where wages are low and part- time jobs are the norm. The COVID-19 pandemic contributed to millions of retail workers being furloughed by their employers. In April 2020, the retail unemployment rate in the U.S. exceeded 17%.

Walmart’s CEO was paid over $22 million while Walmart’s median worker pay was $22,484, making it a 983:1 ratio. I can go on and on. Companies have been overpaying CEOs for years while working people receive very little in the way of raises and benefits unless they have a collective bargaining agreement.

Worker productivity continues to be at all-time highs, while wages for working families remain stagnant.

Don’t you think it is far past time for working people to take a stand? At what point do we say enough is enough? How much wealth does one CEO actually need? Our right to form unions is being stripped away almost daily. Unions may very well be the only thing left that can possibly slow down this winner-take-all pay system, in which executives take the greatest share of compensation leaving others to fight over their scraps.

We the people have the power through organizing unions in the workplace to better our lives. If union density in the United States was at even 50 percent these outrageous salaries and perks these CEOs receive would greatly diminish, thus putting more money into the pockets of those workers who truly deserve better.

We can stand, by allowing corporate greed to soar year after year, or we can stand together and organize at the workplace. Our future is in our own hands. For the AFL-CIO complete Paywatch report visit www.AFLCIO.Org.

The AFL-CIO’s calculation of the average CEO compensation is based on the AFL-CIO’s analysis of 498 companies in the S & P 500 Index with available pay data as of June 2020. The average CEO-to-worker pay ratio of S & P 500 companies is calculated as the arithmetic mean of the company disclosed pay ratios.



By Rick Moyle, Executive Director of the Hawkeye Area Labor Council, AFL-CIO.