As this Labor Day approaches, America’s unions are held in high regard. A new Gallup poll released this week places their popularity at 64 percent, their second-highest level of support this century. But make no mistake, these are not friendly times for the nation’s workers.
Despite a low unemployment rate, wages continue to remain largely flat. Those who wake up early and head out to their workplaces day after day are not profiting. So who is? Big surprise, it’s their big business bosses.
New statistics released by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) earlier this month shows that CEO pay at the top 350 U.S. firms in 2018 averaged $17.2 million, growing more than 1000 percent during the past 40 years. That’s compared to just 12 percent for the typical worker during the same time period.
“While wage growth for the majority of Americans has remained stagnant, CEO pay continues to grow strongly the last few years,” said Lawrence Mishel, an EPI distinguished fellow. “The escalation of CEO compensation has fueled the growth of top one percent incomes and widespread inequality across the country.”
In fact, CEO pay has even exceeded corporate profits during this time, fattened largely by Wall Street values instead of actual company success. Executive largess – fueled by stock rewards and cashed-in stock options – is hardworking Americans’ loss.
Meanwhile, the nation’s middle class continues to suffer. More and more jobs are being sent overseas and wages are being pushed down because of it. People are working harder than ever for little return and struggle to make ends meet. For them, the American dream is slipping away.
Workers should have the same freedom and rights on the job as CEOs to negotiate a fair return on their work. By allowing them to join together and negotiate their salaries and benefits, they are more likely to be justly compensated. The nation’s economy, in turn, will benefit. Workers with more money in their paychecks will spend it, buying more products that in turn will lead to more jobs and better wages for all workers.
But that won’t just magically happen. Lawmakers need to work to put policies in place like the PRO Act currently before the House to make it easier to do so. In return, workers will prosper. And history teaches us that stronger unions lead to a stronger middle class.
It’s long past time for both elected officials and corporate board rooms to realize the value workers bring to companies and this country. The rules have been rigged. It’s time to change them now or for business and political leaders to face the music if they don’t.