CEO pay still dwarfing pay of U.S. workers: union report

Tue May 9, 2017 3:19pm EDT
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By Ross Kerber and Peter Szekely

BOSTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - A wide and longstanding gap between the earnings of U.S. CEOs and workers shows no signs of narrowing, according to a labor group analysis released on Tuesday.

Chief executives of S&P 500 companies surveyed were paid on average $13.1 million last year, 347 times the pay of the average U.S. worker, according to the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of U.S. labor unions.

That gap was up from 335 times worker pay in 2015, reflecting a widening income inequality, said the labor group, which posted the latest figure on its website.

The AFL-CIO used the survey release to highlight slow U.S. wage growth and the outsourcing of jobs to countries with lower wages. Corporate directors were at fault for enabling top executives' pay, even when investor returns lag, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said.

"The system is rigged," he said in an interview with CNBC. "We think shareholders ought to become more active and lower those (executive pay raises), and that workers ought to get a bigger share of the wealth they produce."

The labor group's annual study often draws notice as a measure of how U.S. workers are largely not sharing the economic gains of those at the top of the income scale, even as official unemployment remains low.

Dissatisfaction among those workers was one reason many backed Donald Trump in last year's U.S. presidential election.

U.S. investors tend to support the current CEO pay levels, however. In the advisory votes that S&P 500 companies held for their shareholders on executive pay last year, they received average support of 91 percent, according to consulting firm Semler Brossy. Only six companies received less than 50 percent support in the advisory votes.   Continued...

FILE PHOTO: U.S. dollar notes are seen in this November 7, 2016 picture illustration.   REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo