America is supposed to be the land of opportunity, a country where hard work and playing by the rules would provide working families a middle-class standard of living. But in recent decades, corporate CEOs have been taking a greater share of the economic pie while workers’ wages have stagnated.

In 2014, CEOs of the S&P 500 Index companies received, on average, $13.5 million in total compensation—an increase of 15.6% from the previous year—according to the AFL-CIO’s analysis of available data.

Today’s CEO-to-worker pay ratios are simply unconscionable. While CEO pay is stratospheric, production and nonsupervisory workers took home only $36,134 on average in 2014, and a full-time worker making the federal minimum wage earned only $15,080.

It doesn't have to be this way. Lawmakers should raise the minimum wage and protect U.S. workers by not engaging in bad trade deals. Corporations should pay their employees a living wage. And workers should have a collective voice on the job to demand their fair share.

    2013 and 2014 CEO-to-average worker pay ratio calculated based on AFL-CIO analysis of 350 and 472 available companies in the S&P 500, respectively. Average worker pay according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data for production and nonsupervisory workers. CEO-to-worker pay ratio from 1980 calculated by Bloomberg Businessweek, as reported in Executive Pay: The Party Ain’t Over Yet, April 26, 1993.

    Economic Policy Institute. Walton Family Net Worth is a Case Study Why Growing Wealth Concentration Isn’t Just an Academic Worry


    "No matter how you slice it in the retail business, payroll is one of the most crucial things you have to fight to maintain your profit margin,” said Sam Walton, who opened the first of his discount stores in 1962. “That was true then, and it is still true today."

    Indeed, rock-bottom wages have been part of the Walton family playbook since the day the first Walmart opened its doors. In the late 1960s, Walton tried to skirt a federal minimum wage increase by crafting a decentralized ownership scheme for his chain of stores, but when the courts forced Walton to cut back-pay checks for the clerks at several stores, he told his employees that he would “fire anyone who cashes the check.”1

    It comes as no surprise, then, that the heirs of the Walmart fortune have a combined wealth of at least $170 billion. However, under growing pressure from workers, shoppers, investors, taxpayers and elected officials, Walmart was pushed to raise wages for a half-million workers. But Walmart still can do a lot more to give working people the wages necessary to build a middle-class life by offering a starting wage of $15 an hour and consistent and full-time work for employees who want it.

      1Nelson Lichtenstein. The Retail Revolution: How Walmart Created a Brave New World of Business

      Walmart CEO pay data from its April 22, 2015, proxy statement. McMillon’s hourly CEO pay assumes 52 40-hour workweeks using the CEO's total compensation.


      I worked at Walmart for almost three years as a customer service manager in Laurel, Md., after working at a Walmart store in Louisiana. I am a proud wife and a mother of two girls.

      In 2013, I earned about $12,000 as a full-time employee. These poverty wages force my family to receive public assistance. Currently, we are enrolled in the public health care program for low-income families and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program for my infant daughter.

      I was not earning enough to pay for child care, so I had to make the hard choice to work fewer hours in order to care for my daughter.

      Walmart doesn’t value me, my co-workers and our hard work so I became involved in the worker empowerment movement and am speaking out, standing up and calling for the company to publicly commit to ending its unfair labor practices, provide all of its workers with a fair wage, good jobs and enough hours to be able to support our families.

      I believe in working hard and that my work should be valued. That is why I fight and that is why I will not stop fighting until Walmart commits to raising wages and begins valuing all of its workers.

        Walmart and Costco

        Some big retailers, for example Costco, are able to pass savings onto its customers and provide its workers with good pay, benefits and consistent schedules.


        Emmanuel and Piketty, Thomas. Income Inequality in the United States, 1913-1998, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 118(1), 2003, 1-39 (tables and figures updated to 2013 in Excel format, January 2015)


        In April, Walmart shut down five stores across the country and laid off thousands with little notice. The workers were not provided with any guarantee they would be given jobs at another store nearby or receive the same pay. And when the store reopens, they were told they would have to reapply to get their previous jobs back.

        Walmart claimed the stores were closed for “plumbing issues” but Walmart had not requested any permits for plumbing work.

        Perhaps the real reason for the store closings is that Walmart wants to silence workers who are standing up and winning. One of the stores Walmart shut down is in Pico Rivera, Calif., where workers were the first to strike--demanding respect on the job and an end to what they believe was illegal retaliation.

        Sign the petition to tell McMillon this won’t be tolerated and that the laid-off workers should be transferred to another store, compensated in the meantime and given their old jobs back when their store reopens.

          Source: Journal of Commerce. Top 100 U.S. Importers in 2013

          Take Action

          It doesn’t have to be this way. Today’s boards of directors spend endless amounts of time deciding how much to pay their CEO. For many companies, CEOs are rewarded as if they are solely responsible for the growth of their company. Wouldn’t it be great if they also took into consideration how much the company pays its rank-and-file employees?

          Tell the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to lift up the veil and require companies to disclose their ratio of CEO to median employee pay.