PayWatch: CEO Pay Hits ‘Insane Level’

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It’s good to be a CEO, at least paywise. According to the 2014 AFL-CIO Executive PayWatch, released today, it’s 331 times better to be a CEO than an average worker. PayWatch finds that the average CEO of an S&P 500 company pocketed $11.7 million in 2013, while the average worker earned $35,293. The gap between CEOs and minimum wage workers is more than twice as wide—774 times.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said that PayWatch:

“Calls attention to the insane level of compensation for CEOs, while the workers who create those corporate profits struggle for enough money to take care of the basics.”

While CEO pay has hit stratospheric levels, workers and their families have been left in an economic quagmire of stagnant wagesexpiration of unemployment insurance for long-term jobless workers, an abysmally low minimum wage and unequal pay between men and women.

Many of the CEOs highlighted in PayWatch head companies, such as Walmart, that are notorious for paying low wages. This year PayWatch highlights five low-wage companies through stories from workers at Walmart, Kellogg’s, Reynolds American , Darden Restaurants and T-Mobile.

For example, in fiscal 2013, Walmart CEO Michael T. Duke received $20,693,545 in total compensation. PayWatch points out that a minimum wage worker at Walmart would have had to work 1,372 hours just to earn what Duke made in an hour. Tiffany, a Walmart worker and mother of two in Maryland, said:

“I earned about $12,000 last year as a full-time employee. These poverty wages force my family to receive public assistance. Currently, we are enrolled in the public health care program for low-income families, and the Women, Infants and Children program for my infant daughter.”

And while many of these companies argue that they can’t afford to raise wages, the nation’s largest companies are earning higher profits per employee than they did five years ago. In 2013, S&P 500 companies earned $41,249 in profits per employee, a 38% increase. Said Trumka:

“These companies are run by shortsighted business leaders, because people who earn minimum wage, for instance, can’t afford cellphones from T-Mobile or dinner at Red Lobster or the Olive Garden, both of which are owned by Darden Restaurants. America’s CEOs—as exemplified by the individuals of these companies—are cannibalizing their own consumer base. It’s wrong. It’s unfair, and it’s bad economics.”

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 78 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.

PayWatch also gives you a chance to help the nation’s lowest-paid workers by signing a petition urging Congress to pass the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013. It would provide a much-needed increase to $10.10 an hour, raise the tipped minimum wage for the first time in more than 20 years and help lift more than half of the nation’s working poor out of poverty.

Sign the petition to raise the minimum wage. 

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9 Reasons Why We’re Giving a ‘Thumbs Down’ to the Ryan Budget

Liz Lemon, 30 Rock

House Republican leaders passed Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget this week by a vote of 219 to 205, with no Democrats voting in favor. The Ryan budget is chock full of so many terrible ideas that it’s hard to single out the biggest stinkers, but here goes.

1. Raising the Medicare Eligibility Age from 65 to 67.  Not only would raising the eligibility age shift costs to 65- and 66-year-olds and to seniors who still qualify for Medicare benefits, but it would actually *increase* overall costs throughout the health care system. Worst. Idea. Ever.

2. Giving Corporations More Tax Breaks for Outsourcing Jobs. The Ryan budget calls for a “territorial tax system,” which would eliminate U.S. taxes on the offshore profits of companies that send jobs overseas. Second worst idea ever.

3. Costing 4 Million Jobs. And that’s only in two years! According to the Economic Policy Institute, the Ryan budget would cost 1.1 million jobs in 2015 and 3 million jobs in 2016. Millions more jobs would be lost in subsequent years.

4. Giving Millionaires a $200,000 Tax Cut. The Ryan budget would cut the top marginal income tax rate from 39.6% to 25%, giving people who make more than $1 million per year tax cuts averaging between $200,000 and $330,000.

5. Turning Medicare into a Voucher Program. The Ryan budget once again proposes to end the Medicare guarantee, which would raise premiums for seniors who choose traditional Medicare and leave traditional Medicare to “wither on the vine” as private plans capture the healthiest seniors.

6. Gutting Education. The Ryan budget would slash funding for kindergarten to 12th grade education by$89 billion and higher education by $260 billion over 10 years, making college less affordable and increasingstudent indebtedness by $47 billion.

7. Gutting Investment in Transportation. The Ryan budget would slash transportation investments by$52 billion in 2015, costing jobs and making America less competitive.

8. Gutting Medicaid. The Ryan budget would cut Medicaid funding by $732 billion over 10 years by turning Medicaid into a block grant program. It would further cut Medicaid funding by repealing the Affordable Care Act, for a total cut to Medicaid of some $1.5 trillion.

9. Slashing Tax Rates for Profitable Corporations. The Ryan budget would slash the corporate tax rate from 35% to 25%, squandering $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion in tax revenue over 10 years.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Ohio Extremists Looking to End Government Transparency and Sell Elections to the Highest Bidder

Anonymous extremists in the Ohio legislature are attempting to change the laws to increase the influence of independent groups in government and make it harder for average Ohioans to know what their government is doing or have any influence on that government.

According to Tim Burga, president of the Ohio AFL-CIO, an anonymous amendment was submitted to a bill currently before the legislature that would eliminate an administrative rule governing campaign finance.  This would mean that contractors working for or attempting to work for the state can spend money trying to influence the outcome of elections of the very people who would potentially give them state contracts.  Furthermore, Burga said the repeal of the administrative rule would make groups that make independent election expenditures no longer required to disclose who made contributions to them.

Burga condemned the amendment:

This amendment will further tilt the field toward the rich and powerful and their de facto control in running state government.  The average Ohioan stands to lose in this arrangement as candidates and elected officials will increasingly turn to independent groups, as opposed to their constituents, for guidance on how to govern our state.  We need a state government that is more responsive to the needs of Ohio at large, not less.  Therefore, we need to move toward a system of campaign finance that increases the scrutiny of the dark money that is flowing into our state to influence our politics.

The irony should not be lost on any of us that this anonymous amendment was likely written by some of the very independent groups it seeks to empower, and it is doubtful any legislators have heard from their constituents clamoring for such changes to our election laws.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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The Rabbit Hole Gets Deeper: Silicon Valley Wage Suppression Suit Indicates a Far Greater Reach

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What began as a ploy from tech CEOs to limit gifted engineers from gaining higher wages and possibly better jobs has revealed itself to be a large-scale operation with multiple corporate participants.

Pando got its hands on some court documents that suggest companies like Dell, IBM, eBay, Microsoft, Comcast, and Clear Channel, participated in wage suppression practices under the guidance of the original CEOs, namely Google’s Eric Schmidt and the late Steve Jobs. This could mean that the number of affected employees is much larger than previously expected.

“These are the engineers building the hardware and software that are the lifeblood of the technology industry,” Joseph R. Saveri, the plaintiff’s lawyer said. “But they were prevented from being able to freely negotiate what their skills are worth.”

In one internal document Google lists several companies that are “sensitive” and should be placed on “restrictive hiring” and “do not cold call” lists.

Despite the implication of other corporations the Department of Justice made the decision to focus its attention on a few main players (Google, Apple, and Pixar for example) and those companies are currently looking to settle out of court.

According to Pando, the additional companies listed have denied any involvement in the conspiracy.

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K-E Double L! O Double Greed

When the Kellogg Co. locked out some 220 workers from its Memphis, Tenn., plant in October, it was another step in Kellogg’s corporate battle plan to replace steady, middle-class, full-time jobs in the United States and elsewhere with casual part-time employees who would make significantly lower wages and substandard benefits.

Today the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) union stepped up its campaign to shed light on Kellogg’s Greed and put pressure on the globally recognized cereal maker to end its Memphis lockout and step back from its plans to cuts jobs and shutter plants in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.

In videos on the just-launched website, Kellogg Greed, Memphis workers talk about the toll Kellogg’s lockout has taken on them and their families and workers in the London, Ontario plant in Canada that Kellogg is shutting down at the end of the year and reveal how they were deceived by the cereal maker.

Another video explores the $14 billion a year cereal giant’s plan to increase production in low-wage countries, including Mexico, Malaysia and Thailand.

While CEO John Bryant received $8 million in salary in 2013 and investors continue to profit from increasing dividend payouts and share buybacks, thousands of Kellogg employees and the communities they live in are left devastated and angry.

Take action and send a message to Bryant, urging him to end the Memphis lockout and cease the attacks on Kellogg’s dedicated and hardworking employees in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.

The Memphis workers have received support from national politicians, religious leaders, civil rights organizations and international labor groups, including the Congressional Black Caucus, the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations, the National Action Network and others.

See all the videos below and stay tuned for more updates on this story:

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Is This How You Reward Success? Wall Street Profits Are Down, But Bonuses Are Up

While workers across the country push to raise the minimum wage, the bankers on Wall Street are getting a 15 percent increase on their already hefty bonuses.

If that isn’t ridiculous enough, it seems that profits on Wall Street are actually down. According to the New York Times:

On Wall Street, profits are down and the number of workers is shrinking.

But bonuses continue to grow larger.

Cash bonuses paid to Wall Street employees in New York City rose 15 percent on average last year, to $164,530, according to estimates released on Wednesday by Thomas P. DiNapoli, the state comptroller. That was the biggest average bonus since 2007, the year before the financial crisis struck.

Over all, workers in the financial industry in the city made an estimated $26.7 billion in bonuses last year, a number that, again, was the highest level since the crisis.

So, raising the minimum wage to a little over $10 an hour will negatively affect the economy, but widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots won’t?

Photo courtesy of eneas on Flickr.

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Bus Drivers Win $350 Million Lawsuit, By Banning Together

Have you ever thought about how much money your employer is saving when you perform job duties off the clock?

Well, a group of bus drivers in Baltimore banned together and won a $350 million wage theft case against their employer, Durham School Services, for that exact reason.

From 2011 to 2013 Durham failed to pay workers overtime for things like bus inspections, cleanings and fueling, In These Times reports.

“We work hard and don’t make a lot of money to begin with,” Rosedale driver Martin Fox commented in a union press statement. “For many of us, the pay we didn’t receive was the difference between being able to pay the electric bill and having food on the table for our families. We are glad to finally win back the pay that was stolen from us.”

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 750 has been trying to organize drivers and aides for quite some time. The union was instrumental in getting the workers to file suit, and the union hopes that this move will be a stepping stone in the unionization process.

As it pertains to Durham School Services, there are several instances of this type of behavior. Worker complaints have been recorded in Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Florida. In 2011, California school bus drivers won a class action suit against Durham for $7 million in lost wages.

Photo courtesy of woodleywonderworks on Flickr

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It’s a Great Time to Own a Business, and a Terrible Time to Be An Employee

Corporations and corporate CEO’s are making money.

This information likely comes as a surprise to no one, but what is surprising is that, in an economy that still feels pretty weak, corporations are making this much money.

U.S. corporate profits are the highest they’ve been in 60 years, and according to a U.S. economist those profits are linked to ridiculously low hourly wages.

“The strength (in profits) is directly related to the weakness in hourly wages, which are still growing at just a 2% nominal pace. The weakness of wages and the resulting strength of profits are telling signs that the US labor market is still far from full employment,” says Jan Hatzius, U.S. economist at Goldman Sachs.

For all of you visual learners, the charts offer an excellent illustration of exactly how outrageous corporate profits are compared to the low and slow to grow, wages of American workers.

Although many business owners are against raising the minimum wage, there’s evidence to support that raising the wage would actually help businesses by decreasing turnover and increasing productivity.

A few weeks ago, The Gap decided to increase its hourly wage to $9 in 2014 and $10 in 2015, CEO Glenn Murphy noted that it would deliver a return many times over.

Let’s put an end to the ever growing income gap in this country and Raise the Wage.

 

 

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The Shameful U.S. Record on Temporary Worker Protections

In the past decade, temporary work arrangements grew steadily in the United States—20% since 2003. In 2013, there were 2,673,800 workers employed in the temp industry, which accounted for 24% of all job growth in the United States during the tepid economic recovery from 2009 to 2012. Often these workers perform the same work as permanent employees for lower wages, little training, no benefits and no promise of security. Unfortunately,according to a recent ProPublica investigation, the United States lags far behind other industrialized countries in labor protections for temporary workers. Of 43 “developed and emerging economies” tracked by the OECD, the United States ranks near the bottom, at 41st, for temporary worker protections.

While temporary work and other forms of independent contracting offer some workers desired flexibility, most temporary workers are caught in a precarious gap in labor protections and lack needed workplace stability. From low-wage maintenance work to highly paid tech jobs, the growth of temporary work has pervaded the labor market. The AFL-CIO’s Department for Professional Employees reports more than 7.7 million self-employed and temporary workers are employed in management, professional and related occupations. Temp workers at Microsoft, for example, have long protested their “permatemp” status at the company, where many have worked for years receiving less pay for the same work as regular employees, with no benefits or paid time off and little hope of moving into regular employment.

On the other end of the wage spectrum, workers often toil in unsafe conditions with little training, as companies outsource entire segments of their blue-collar workforce to staffing firms. Workers who are cheated out of wages or have safety complaints frequently do not know where to turn, as their true employer is masked through numerous subcontracting relationships throughout a supply chain. Some 542 temp workers were fatally injured on the job in 2011; Latino temp workers represented 28% of those deaths.

Immigrant workers are especially susceptible to abuse, as they may be unaware of their labor rights or fear immigration enforcement. Many have reported having to pay fees to fly-by-night staffing firms that charge workers for van transport to unknown job sites. Immigrant workers also frequently access the labor market through international labor recruiters, who have been known to charge high fees, confiscate travel documents, issue threats and commit other forms of abuse that have even resulted in human trafficking.

The growth of temp work arrangements is the product of deliberate corporate practices and policies that have been implemented within the context of privatization, deregulation and flexibilization of labor laws. There are numerous efforts to reverse these trends. The International Labor Organization is examining temporary work this summer as part of an effort to encourage the transition from the informal to formal economy. National governments, too, have made efforts well beyond the United States to combat exploitative temp work arrangements. For example:

  • At least 12 countries have banned companies from hiring temps in dangerous industries or to do hazardous work.
  • Unlike the United States, about three-quarters of the countries tracked by OECD require temp agencies to register or become licensed before they can begin sending out workers.
  • European Union countries mandated that temp workers receive equal pay and working conditions to employees hired directly by the company;
  • Nearly half of the 43 countries in the OECD study restrict the duration of temp assignments, ranging from three months to three years.

In the United States, workers have won promising gains in an uphill battle. Through collective action, taxi workers, day laborers, home care workers and adjunct faculty have improved their working conditions and formed collective representation on the job. At the state level in the United States, workers have pushed lawmakers to pass laws targeting employee misclassification, including laws that assign joint responsibility to temp agencies as employers, or forbid agreements where businesses know the agency does not have sufficient funds for all applicable regulations. At a time when inequality is at the top of the administration’s agenda, federal agencies and lawmakers must make every effort to reflect these good practices and extend worker protections to temp workers.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Silicon Valley Executives Collaborated to Suppress Employee Wages By $3 Billion

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A class-action lawsuit has accused several high-profile Silicon Valley CEO’s of suppressing wages, to the tune of $3 billion, through a top-secret agreement to abstain from recruiting each other’s employees.

Tech CEO’s sought to retain talented engineers and keep their wages low by stifling any outside employment opportunities:

In early 2005, as demand for Silicon Valley engineers began booming, Apple’s Steve Jobs sealed a secret and illegal pact with Google’s Eric Schmidt to artificially push their workers wages lower by agreeing not to recruit each other’s employees, sharing wage scale information, and punishing violators…

This may come as a surprise to most of us, as the image of a brilliant, innovative, and ostensibly progressive tech CEO toiling away at his latest technological masterpiece in solitude has been burned into our brains.

But this lawsuit is the perfect example of just how vital all employees are to employers, no matter how excellent the CEO might be.

The suit alleges that, based on several uncovered email conversations, Silicon Valley executives mutually agreed to refrain from recruiting each other’s star employees. The executives implicated include Steve Jobs, Intuit’s Bill Campbell, and Google’s Eric Schmidt.

The agreements led to several ‘Do Not Call’ lists, and even prompted Apple’s head of HR to instruct employees to put Google on their ‘hands off’ list.

These interactions aren’t just another offering of the corporate greed; they also shed light on the extremes that executives will go to keep talent in-house.

But if these employees were so valuable, and they clearly were, why not treat them as such? Instead of driving down wages and competition, why wouldn’t these men pay their employees a wage that reflected just how indispensable they were to the organization, and treat them as human beings?

Too easy.

In these times it’s important to remember that no matter where you work, your job is necessary and vital to the organization’s success. And this situation in Silicon Valley is a great example of that.

Photo courtesy of privateidentity for Flickr.

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