CEOs at lowest-paying firms jacked up their pay during pandemic


PAI Staff Writer

Washington (PAI) – CEO’s at more than one-third of the nation’s lowest-paying firms – including Amazon and Starbucks that are battling unionization drives – jacked up their own total compensation right in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, a new report says.

Executive Excess 2022 by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) reveals that the gap between those rich CEOs and the rest of us is even wider at the low-wage companies than it is overall. It was 670-1 at those firms in 2021, up from 604-1 in 2020. By comparison, the 2021 pay ratio for all CEOs at Fortune 500 firms was 299-1, the AFL-CIO’s Executive Paywatch says.

Even worse, IPS reported, in 49 of the 300 lowest-paying firms, the ratio of CEO compensation to worker pay was more than 1,000-1. In 69, CEO compensation rose while median nominal worker pay, not adjusted for inflation, fell.

“The conventional wisdom holds low-wage workers benefited economically during the pandemic. But despite all this pay-increase buzz,” 106 of the 300 lowest-wage firms did not have their workers’ paychecks keep pace with last year’s 4.7 percent inflation, IPS reported.

“By contrast, at the corporate top end, CEO pay last year soared 31 percent to an average $10.6 million at these same 300 low-wage firms.”

The widest gap between a boss and his workers occurred at – where else? – Amazon.

CEO Andy Jassy—successor to Jeff Bezos, who still owns the monster warehouser and retailer-– garnered $212.7 million in 2021, 6,474 times the median take-home pay of Amazon workers, $32,855.

That Amazon workers’ median is the point where half the workers are above and half below. But the half who are below are so far below that the independent Amazon Labor Union in New York won a unionization vote at the firm’s LD8 warehouse on Staten Island, despite rampant and expensive company Labor law-breaking.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz received $20.425 million in compensation last year, IPS reported. That was 1,579 times the median pay of Starbucks workers. Workers United is helping an intensive grass-roots organizing drive by Starbucks workers from coast-to-coast, which has now reached more than 300 stores.

In addition to union-busting – which hasn’t worked – Starbucks just declared the ultimate in retaliation, closing the first unionized store in the college town of Ithaca, N.Y. Workers United filed a Labor law-breaking (unfair labor practices) complaint against it with the National Labor Relations Board.

IPS recommends taxing excessive corporate pay, as San Francisco and Portland, Ore., now do. San Francisco is a major corporate headquarters, while Portland is home to Nike’s corporate offices. Nike is on the low-pay list, with CEO compensation of $32.9 million –
fifth-highest among the 300 – and a CEO-worker pay ratio of 913-1.

“Higher tax rates on companies with wide CEO-worker pay gaps create an incentive to both rein in executive pay and lift up worker wages, all while generating significant new capital for vital public investments,” the IPS’s report states.



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