Trumka: CEOs are the new royalty in America

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka appeared on CNBC Tuesday to discuss the latest report by Executive Paywatch and unveil this year’s list of the nation’s highest paid ecxecutives, exposing the unprecedented disparity between their salaris and the wages of American workers.

CEOs of the nation’s largest corporations received a 16 percent pay raise in 2014, and the pay gap between CEOs and the typical worker widened to 373-to-1, according to the latest data from the AFL-CIO Executive PayWatch. Top executives of the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index companies received, on average, $13.5 million in 2014, even as the average production and nonsupervisory worker earned only $36,000 in annual salary in 2014. 

The data from the 2015 Executive PayWatch underscore the work that needs to be done to combat the nation’s persistent income inequality and push for higher wages for working families. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka asked more of the country’s big corporations:

“America faces an income inequality crisis because corporate CEOs have taken the raising wages agenda and applied it only to themselves. Big corporations spend freely on executive perks and powerful lobbyists to strip rights from workers, but when it comes to lifting up the wages of workers who make their companies run, they’re nowhere to be found

“Too often workers are seen as costs to be cut, rather than assets to be invested in,” Trumka said. “Americans deserve better from those who have earned so much off the backs of working men and women, and we must start by adding transparency to the CEO pay process and requiring companies to disclose their CEO-to-median employee pay ratios.”

As one of the most egregious examples of this type of inequality, mega-retailer Walmart is highlighted in this year’s PayWatch. Doug McMillon, the company’s CEO, earns $9,323 an hour. His starting employees get only $9 an hour, meaning it would only take those workers 1,036 hours to earn one hour of McMillon’s pay.

Tiffany, a former Walmart worker, explained the struggles caused by the company’s low wages:

“In 2013, I earned about $12,000 as a full-time employee, which, at Walmart, isn’t always 40 hours each week. These poverty wages forced my family to receive public assistance. Walmart doesn’t value me. I believe in working hard and that my work should be valued. This is why I will not stop fighting until Walmart commits to raising wages and begins valuing all of its workers.”

The Executive PayWatch is the most comprehensive searchable online database tracking the excessive pay of CEOs of the nation’s largest companies. The website offers visitors the ability to compare their own pay to the pay of top executives, highlights the 100 top-paid CEOs and breaks out CEO pay data by state and by industry. The site also tracks and grades votes cast by 106 of the largest mutual fund families on executive compensation at the public companies they invest in. Mutual funds own more than one-fifth of all shares in U.S. public companies, giving them a great deal of influence in determining executive pay at these companies.

Executive PayWatch also gives you a chance to take action and ask the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to require big corporations to disclose their ratio of CEO to median employee pay.

This article originally appeared in the AFL-CIO Now blog. See the video included in the original piece.

Photo: While Walmart workers like these fight to raise their povery wage of just $9.00 an hour, Doug McMillen, the company’s CEO, earns $9,323 an hour.   |   AP


Kenneth Quinnell
Kenneth Quinnell

Kenneth Quinnell is Senior Writer at AFL-CIO