Michael Smith had a good middle-class job – or at least he did, until March 23.
Now thanks to the corporate greed of his company’s CEO, whose income of millions of dollars is detailed in the AFL-CIO’s newest edition of Executive Paywatch, the 59-year-old father of four doesn’t know where his next job will be. His production line was closed and moved to Mexico. And the prostate cancer survivor’s health insurance runs out next month.
Smith and 276 other workers at the Nabisco plant on Chicago’s Southwest Side, makers of Oreo cookies and other processed foods were, in so many words, fired that March day because company CEO Irene Rosenfeld wants to increase her $19.67 million annual compensation – and shareholders’ rewards. And 300 more workers may soon also be gone.
By contrast, Smith, a member of Bakery, Confectionery and Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Local 300, which represents all the workers at the 1,800-person plant on South Kedzie Avenue, made $25.70 hourly last year, up about $6 hourly from when he began.
“We were comfortable, but we weren’t anywhere near Irene Rosenfeld’s level,” the father of four daughters says. And he got the bad news at the end of his 3 am shift.
It’s contrasts like that that lead the AFL-CIO to publish its yearly study comparing CEO pay and the median pay of U.S. workers. Based on federal data, the study reports the median CEO in 2015, or in some cases 2014, made 335 times what the median worker did, $36,875.
Rosenfeld, who heads Mondelez, the conglomerate that now owns Nabisco, is just one member of a subset of CEOs the federation highlighted this year: Those who draw high pay, perks and insider stock options while moving well-paying U.S. jobs overseas.
Another is Gregory Hayes of United Technologies, parent of Carrier Corp. He earned $24 million last year, the figures show. This spring, he closed the Carrier furnace plant outside of Indianapolis, shifting its 1,400 jobs away from Steelworkers there to Mexico.
And they’re joined by Lowell McAdam, Verizon’s CEO. His corporation earned billions of dollars in profits in the last three years, and he earned $18.34 million last year. But after nine months of fruitless talks – in which Verizon refused to budge from cost-cutting that would double workers’ health care costs and give the company unlimited freedom to move call center jobs to Mexico and the Philippines – its 39,000 unionists, members of the Communications Workers and the Electrical Workers, were forced to strike a month ago.
It’s time for some pay equity!
- Press Associates, Inc., contributed to this report.