FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

When CEO’s Earn 5,000 Times as Much as a Company’s Workers


Mattel is one of the largest toy-making companies on earth. Turns out it’s one of the biggest manufacturers of income inequality, too.

Last year, the Barbie doll manufacturer paid its CEO nearly 5,000 times as much as its median worker.

This stunning revelation is the result of a new regulation that requires U.S. publicly held corporations to report their CEO-worker pay ratios to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Mattel’s gap is the widest reported so far. But most other big U.S. companies also have staggering divides. According to a new report by the staff of Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, the first 225 large corporations to release their numbers had pay ratios averaging 339 to 1.

“This immense inequality is a crisis for our economy and our democracy,” said Ellison, a longtime advocate of pay gap disclosure.

What’s good for these CEOs, however, is actually bad for business.

A CNBC analysis of the new pay ratio data, for example, suggests that companies with large pay disparities have lower profits per employee.

Why might that be? According to a recent study by a Harvard Business professor, companies tend to perform poorly if workers feel they’re not paid fairly. The study’s author said workers who feel that way are likely to lack motivation and even quit their jobs.

It’s not hard to understand how it could put a damper on your morale to be working hard and struggling to get by while your boss is being rewarded hundreds — or even thousands — of times more than you on payday.

Doug Smith, a former partner at the big McKinsey management consulting firm, argues that the economic costs of huge pay gaps go far beyond the problems of low employee morale and high turnover.

“Instead of building a real economy beneficial to all,” Smith says, “these unethical pay practices spread outsourcing, offshoring, tax avoidance, downsizing, and the substitution of good-paying permanent jobs with temporary, precarious employment.”

There’s a growing movement to use the new pay ratio data to encourage corporations to narrow their gaps. Portland, Oregon will soon become the first city to impose a tax penalty on companies with pay gaps above 100 to 1.

Charlie Hales, Portland’s mayor when the law was passed in late 2016, argued that it made good business sense to encourage narrower gaps.

In a former job at an employee-owned engineering firm, Hales had seen firsthand how a small pay ratio boosted the bottom line. “Everyone worked a little harder because your success was my success,” Hales said. “And that egalitarian culture led to a strong work ethic that drove the corporation to success.”

With the new pay ratio data now coming out, lawmakers in six states — California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Rhode Island — are considering Portland-style pay ratio taxes.

Narrowing the divides within U.S. corporations may not automatically leave us all whistling away while we work. But we’ll all pay a price if we keep fiddling while extreme inequality burns down our economy.

More articles by:

Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
April 06, 2020
Richard D. Wolff
COVID-19 and the Failures of Capitalism
W. T. Whitney
Donald Trump, Capitalism, and Letting Them Die
Cesar Chelala
Cuba’s Promising Approach to Cancer
David A. Schultz
Camus and Kübler-Ross in a Time of COVID-19 and Trump
Nomi Prins 
Wall Street Wins, Again: Bailouts in the Time of Coronavirus
Dean Baker
Getting to Medicare-for-All, Eventually
Dave Lindorff
Neither Pandemic Nor Economic Collapse is Going to Be a Short-Lived Crisis
Sonali Kolhatkar
Capitalism in America Has Dropped the Mask: Its Face is Cruel and Selfish
Ralph Nader
Trump’s 7 Pro-Contagion Reversals Increase the Coronavirus Toll
David Swanson
A Department of Actual Defense in a Time of Coronavirus
Ellen Brown
Was the Fed Just Nationalized?
Jeff Birkenstein
Postcards From Trump
Nick Licata
Authoritarian Leaders Rejected the Danger of a COVID-19 Pandemic Because It Challenged Their Image
Kathy Kelly
“He’s Got Eight Numbers, Just Like Everybody Else”
Graham Peebles
Change Love and the Need for Unity
Kim C. Domenico
Can We Transform Fear to Strength In A Time of Pandemic?
Mike Garrity
Alliance for the Wild Rockies Files Lawsuit to Stop Logging and Burning Project in Rocky Mountain Front Inventoried Roadless Area
Stephen Cooper
“The Soul Syndicate members dem, dem are all icons”: an Interview with Tony Chin
Weekend Edition
April 03, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Omar Shaban
Gaza’s New Conflict: COVID-19
Rob Urie
Work, Crisis and Pandemic
John Whitlow
Slumlord Capitalism v. Global Pandemic
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Strange Things Happening Every Day
Jonathan Cook
The Bigger Picture is Hiding Behind a Virus
Paul Street
Silver Linings Amidst the Capitalist Coronavirus Crisis
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Control of Nature
Louis Proyect
COVID-19 and the “Just-in-Time” Supply Chain: Why Hospitals Ran Out of Ventilators and Grocery Stores Ran Out of Toilet Paper
Kathleen Wallace
The Highly Contagious Idea
Kenneth Good
The Apartheid Wars: Non-Accountability and Freedom for Perpetrators.
Andrew Levine
Democracy in America: Sorry, But You Can’t Get There from Here.
Ramzy Baroud
Tunisia Leads the Way: New Report Exposes Israel’s False Democracy
David Rosen
Coronavirus and the State-of-Emergency Pandemic
Matthew Stevenson
Will Trump Cancel the Election? Will the Democrats Dump Joe?
Ron Jacobs
Seattle—Anti-Capitalist Hotbed
Michael T. Klare
Avenger Planet: Is the COVID-19 Pandemic Mother Nature’s Response to Human Transgression?
Jack Rasmus
COVID-19 and the Forgotten Working Class
Werner Lange
The Madness of More Nukes and Less Rights in Pandemic Times
J.P. Linstroth
Why a Race is Not a Virus and a Virus is Not a Race
John Feffer
We Need a Coronavirus Truce
Thomas S. Harrington
“New Corona Cases”: the Ultimate Floating Signifier
Victor Grossman
Corona and What Then?
Katie Fite
Permanent Pandemic on Public Lands: Welfare Sheep Ranchers and Their Enablers Hold the West’s Bighorns Hostage
Patrick Bond
Covid-19 Attacks the Down-and-Out in Ultra-Unequal South Africa
Eve Ottenberg
Capitalism vs. Humanity
Nicky Reid
Fear and Loathing in Coronaville Volume 2: Panic On the Streets of Tehran
Jonas Ecke
Would Dying for the Economy Help Anybody?
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail