May 24, 2024

Economix: Labor Puts Executive Pay in Spotlight

Richard Trumka, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. president, at a rally on Monday.Alex Wong/Getty Images Richard Trumka, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. president, at a rally on Monday.

The A.F.L.-C.I.O. has long been happy to treat executive compensation as a punching bag, and a Web site it put online Tuesday lands a few new punches.

The site, 2011 Executive Paywatch, notes that total compensation for C.E.O.’s averaged $11.4 million in 2010, up 23 percent from the previous year, based on the most recent pay data for 299 major companies.

The Web site notes that the C.E.O.’s at those 299 companies received a combined total of $3.4 billion in pay in 2010, enough to support 102,325 jobs paying the median wage.

With this ammunition in hand, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. said that “while C.E.O. pay is still out of control,” the nation’s “shareholders now have new tools to fight back. C.E.O.’s must now give their shareholders a ‘say on pay,’ thanks to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that President Obama signed in July 2010.”

The labor federation clearly loves the fact that Section 953(b) of Dodd-Frank “requires companies to disclose the ratio of C.E.O-to-worker pay for their median employee.”

Richard Trumka, the federation’s president, said, “Despite the collapse of the financial market at the hands of executives less than three years ago, the disparity between C.E.O. and workers’ pay has continued to grow to levels that are simply stunning.”

The Web site notes that chief executives’ compensation is 343 times the median pay — $33,190 — of American workers. It adds that the $11.4 million average for C.E.O.’s is 28 times the pay of President Obama, 213 time the median pay of police officers, 225 times teacher pay, 252 times firefighter pay, and 753 times the pay of the minimum-wage worker.

Citing Emmanuel Saez, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, the Web site says: “The increase of income inequality leading up to the 2008 financial crisis and ‘Great Recession’ is striking. Between 1993 and 2008, the top 1 percent of Americans captured 52 percent of all income growth in the United States.”

On the new Web site, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. singled out several C.E.O.’s that it turned into case studies. There was Ray R. Irani of Occidental Petroleum, with compensation of $76,107,000, and Michael S. Jeffries of Abercrombie Fitch, with compensation of $36,335,000. Showing an evident desire not to discriminate against women, the labor federation also cited Susan M. Ivey of Reynolds American at $23,813,000.

Labor, of course, is not alone in its use of the Web to appeal to hearts and minds on workplace issues. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has produced sites like the Campaign for Free Enterprise in its push to create a more favorable business environment. (A section of the chamber’s site dedicated to reducing regulations includes a board game where one obstacle is the Labor Lagoon.)

The A.F.L.-C.I.O. clearly hopes to use its new site along with provisions in the Dodd-Frank legislation to press corporate boards to rein in C.E.O. salaries or to give workers large raises or both — whatever it takes to reduce the C.E.O.-to-worker disparity.

“Pay-ratio disclosure will encourage boards of directors to focus on their internal compensation structures,” the labor federation states on the site. “This information is important to investors because high C.E.O.-to-worker pay disparities hurt employee morale and productivity.”

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