Guest Columnist

Workers are underpaid and under seige in the U.S.

A welder grinds down spots on a railing at an Eastern Iowa business in this June 2017 file photo. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
A welder grinds down spots on a railing at an Eastern Iowa business in this June 2017 file photo. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Well folks, the AFL-CIO has completed Executive Paywatch 2018, a report that defines the gap between CEO and worker compensation for 2017.

CEO pay rose nearly 6 percent at S & P 500 companies, while outsourcing of jobs increased. The average S & P 500 CEO made $13.94 million in 2017. That is 361 times more money than the average U.S. rank-and-file worker. In 2016 the ratio was 347. In 1990 it was 107, and in 1980 it was 42 — proof that income inequality is widening in the country.

Mondelez, the company which makes Nabisco products including Oreos has offshored jobs and paid new CEO Dirk Van de Put more than $42.4 million in total compensation in 2017. That is 989 times what’ the company’s median employee brings home.

That’s really nothing when you consider the toy maker Mattel, which had the highest pay ratio of any S & P 500 company. Mattel’s median employee works in Malaysia and makes $ 6,271, resulting in a CEO to employee ratio of 4,987 to one. The lowest S & P 500 pay ratio was just two to one, and that folks was Mr. Warren Buffett who received $100,000 in total pay in 2017.

When you consider that worker productivity is at all-time highs, and when inflation is factored, workers in this country have not received a raise in 50 years, you can only conclude that something is very wrong here. There has always been greed but this is greed to the nth degree.

It doesn’t stop with pay inequality. Recently the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision in Epic Systems V. Lewis allowing employers to deprive their workers of their right to sue collectively. This ruling was written by none other than Justice Neil Gorsuch, a Donald Trump nominee. Now before you go thinking this is only a union issue, you need to realize that this eliminates the ability of any group of employees to file against a company who has wronged them — eliminating class action.

If your employer refuses to pay you wages that it promised you for your labor you will need to now take that complaint to a third-party arbitrator and cover the cost of doing so on your own. Get used to signing waivers that state, as a term of employment, that you give up your right to sue an employer and have all issues decided by an arbitrator — that is if you can personally afford to do so.

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Workers rights are being stripped almost daily at the federal and state levels people. Some of the only organizations left to fight these wrongs to all working people are labor unions, which our corporate-funded politicians are doing their best to destroy. It is time to wake up working families of America. Join a union where you work and if there is not one to join form one. It may not be long before doing so is illegal too.

• Rick Moyle is executive director of the Hawkeye Area Labor Council AFL-CIO.

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