CEOs of S&P 500 companies hiked their own pay 18.2 percent in 2021

A recent study from AFL-CIO found that the CEOs of S&P 500 companies got a raise of more than 18.2 percent in 2021. The companies aren’t suffering either, with an average profit margin of 17.6 percent last year.

But those profits didn’t necessarily translate to their workers. While worker pay rising 4.8 percent sounds like cause for celebration, AFL-CIO calculated that it actually translates into a pay cut of about 2.4 percent when factoring in inflation, which hit 7.1 percent in 2021.

The average pay for a CEO vs. their workers is the widest since AFL-CIO started calculating it: 324 to 1, up from 299 to 1 in 2020 and 264 to 1 in 2019.

In Missouri, the average CEO was paid $13.1 million in 2021, while the average worker at those same companies earned $51,390, for a ratio of 256 to 1. In Illinois, the average CEO made $15.5 million while the average worker made $59,650, or 260 to 1.

Calling it “greedflation,” AFL-CIO national secretary-treasurer Fred Redmond said skyrocketing CEO pay forces price increases, making it harder for workers while rewarding executives with more cash.

“They say that unemployment is too low. They say they can’t find enough workers to fill their low-paying jobs,” Redmond said. “But the problem with our economy is not too many jobs, it’s economic inequality.”

Redmond said the U.S. business community should invest in their workforces by raising wages and keeping the prices of their goods and services in check, rather than raising prices and hoarding the profits.

“The heroes of the pandemic – and by heroes, I mean the working people who showed up and risked their lives and health and safety to keep our country running – are still showing up and working around the clock, but working for less,” Redmond said.

The highest-paid CEO on the list was Expedia’s Peter Kern at more than $296 million. But the widest gap between worker and CEO pay was at Amazon, as new CEO Andy Jassy was paid $212.7 million in 2021 with a median worker pay of $32,855 – a ratio of 6,474 to 1. Jassy succeeded Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in July 2021.

That pay gap came the same year that Amazon came under fire for safety concerns in its warehouses, following a tornado strike on a warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois that killed six workers.

Redmond pointed out that Amazon raised the price for its popular Prime membership by 17 percent this year, while workers at Amazon facilities are trying to organize with some successes and some failures. And they aren’t the only ones – Redmond said petitions to the National Labor Relations Board to form unions jumped 69 percent in the first half of this year compared with the same period in 2021.

Redmond called for raising wages, stronger Labor law enforcement to protect the right to unionize, investment in clean energy and manufacturing supply chains, reducing the cost of child care and prescription drugs, and investing in public education to fix “greedflation.”

AFL-CIO bases its executive pay watch database on the company reports of corporations in the S&P 500 index filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Find out more and check all the companies registered the database at

CEO salaries vs. workers

Some CEO salaries compared to their workers in the St. Louis area:

• Caterpillar CEO Donald Umpleby III: $24.3 million, 475 times median employee pay.

• O’Reilly Automotive CEO Gregory Johnson: $12.8 million, 454 times median employee pay.

• Caleres Inc. CEO Diane Sullivan: $10.2 million, 417 times median employee pay.

• Emerson Electric CEO Surendralal Karsanbhai: $15.8 million, 378 times median employee pay.

• Centene Corp. CEO Michael Neidorff: $20.6 million, 290 times median employee pay.

• Bunge Limited CEO Gregory Heckman: $16.1 million, 287 times median employee pay.

• Post Holdings CEO Robert Vitale: $14.3 million, 202 times median employee pay.

• Boeing CEO David Calhoun: $21.1 million, 169 times median employee pay.

• Stifel Financial Group CEO Ronald Kruszewski: $13.6 million, 132 times median employee pay.

• Olin Corp. CEO Scott Sutton: $10.1 million, 108 times median employee pay.

• Ameren CEO Warner Baxter: $9.8 million, 74 times median employee pay.


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