U.S. CEOs Made 331 Times Average Worker, Says AFL-CIO

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, during an interview in Washington, D.C., on March 11, 2014

Photograph by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, during an interview in Washington, D.C., on March 11, 2014

April 15 is known across America as a day of reckoning, when many workers must fork over unpaid taxes. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says that for corporate executives, tax day “represents making massive sums of money from the sacrifice of others.”

The labor federation today released its annual “Executive Paywatch,” website showing that CEOs of the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index companies made 331 times more than the average worker last year. It’s part of the group’s broader campaign to nudge Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from $7.25.

“CEOs routinely say that they can’t afford to pay workers better,” Trumka said today during a briefing with reporters. “Well, that’s just a lie.”

The interactive website includes a trove of information on America’s pay gap, including the highest paid CEOs by state, demographics of minimum wage workers, testimonials from employees of companies including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Kellogg Co., and a breakdown of the compensation of the 100 highest-paid corporate titans. (Top earner Larry Ellison of Oracle Corp. earns 98 percent of his $78,440,657 from option awards, atop a $1 annual salary, the site says.)

Trumka’s AFL-CIO compensation in FY2013 was $298,542, according to documents the federation filed with the U.S. Labor Department.

The CEO-to-worker pay ratio in 2013 actually declined slightly, from 354-to-1 last year. A major reason is the rise interest rates, which causes the present value of the future pensions of CEOs to decline, according to Vineeta Anand, the AFL-CIO’s chief research analyst. Still, the long-term trend is dramatic:  In 1983, the corporate leaders earned 46 times more than workers on average, the labor group reported.

To reach its conclusions, the AFL-CIO used data from 350 available companies in the S&P 500 and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. CEO compensation data, pulled from corporate proxy statements, comes from Salary.com.

Legislation to raise the minimum wage remains stalled in Congress.

“I think we do have a good shot at passing this,” says Trumka. “I think we just keep up the pressure. You just keep educating people.”

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