Inflation? More like CEO ‘greedflation’ according to AFL-CIO Paywatch report

WASHINGTON—Corporate CEOs’ “greedflation” in pay and perks, especially bonuses and stock options, highlights the latest AFL-CIO Executive Paywatch study, says federation Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond.

And—no great surprise—the new CEO of Amazon, Andy Jassy, leads the way, at least in the ratio of his compensation to workers’ pay.

Jassy, successor to Amazon founder and still controlling owner Jeff Bezos, received $212.7 million last year, according to federal filings the AFL-CIO uses for Paywatch. That’s 6,424 times the $32,855 median pay of Amazon workers. The median is the point where half the workers are above and half below.

What makes it even worse, Redmond said, is that overall compensation of CEOs in the Standard & Poor’s 500 big companies listed increased by 18.2% in 2021, the last year for which full figures are available. That was more than double inflation, 7.1%.

And the median CEO saw $2.8 million more in pay and perks in 2021, Paywatch says.

“Wall Street elites have been quick to blame workers’ wages and low unemployment for causing inflation. But in reality, U.S. workers’ earnings actually fell behind inflation, rising just 4.7% in 2021. In real terms, average hourly earnings fell 2.4% last year,” the fed said.

Or as Redmond put it: “It’s another version of more for them and less for us.”

Overall, the report says the median CEO-to-worker ratio in 2021 was 324 to 1, another record since the federation started such Paywatch reports. In other words, the median pay for a CEO is higher in a day than it is for a worker in a year, once you remove weekends.

“During the pandemic, the ratio between CEO and worker pay jumped 23%,” said Redmond during a press conference.

“Instead of investing in their workforces by raising wages and keeping the prices of their goods and services in check, their solution is to reap record profits from rising prices and cause a recession that will put working people out of our jobs.”

No wonder the number of union organizing drives is up 69% compared to this time last year, Redmond said.

Though Amazon’s Jassy had the largest pay inequity ratio with Amazon workers, he didn’t draw the largest combo of pay, perks, and bonuses. That “honor” went to Peter Kern of Expedia, the discount travel aggregator, at $296.25 million. Kern got 2,897 times the median pay of his workers, the second-largest ratio, behind Amazon’s Jassy.

Instead of paying his workers a decent wage, Amazon’s Jassy is waging a multimillion-dollar campaign

against union efforts to organize them, especially at his warehouses in Staten Island, Bessemer, Ala., and Chicago, complete with hiring high-priced “union avoidance” law firms, a.k.a. union-busters, to harangue them and lie.

One question always up for discussion is if the corporate class really earns, much less deserves, its high compensation. Asked several years ago whether bosses should get multimillion-dollar checks, the late AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka bluntly said “no.”

Proof of his point: Though the report doesn’t say so, Investor’s Business Daily reports dozens of firms in the S&P 500, part of Paywatch, lost money in 2021. Notable among them: ExxonMobil and American Airlines. Both got hit hard by the coronavirus-caused depression.

Yet the CEOs of both took home millions in compensation.

ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods received $23.57 million total, with $4.7 million in pay and bonuses, 60% of overall the value of stock awards, and the rest in a pension hike. The ratio between his compensation and a median ExxonMobil worker’s pay: 125-1.

American CEO W. Parker took no pay or bonuses but got $7.2 million in stock awards. Parker’s workers got median paychecks of $62,765. The ratio was 115-1.

The entire report is at


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.