I was looking through an old notebook of mine from 2001. I found an article I saved dated 9/01/2001. I wonder if this matter may not have received a little more attention in 2001 had we been spared the tragedy of 9/11. Regardless, the article is by Sarah Anderson and Chris Hartman and distributed by the KRT News Service:
“As Labor Day approaches, workers are getting pink slips while executives are getting bonuses. Job cuts have hit a 10-year high, and CEOs are rewarding themselves for causing such hardship. Of 52 U.S. companies that laid off more than 1,000 workers this year, the chief executive officers at these firms earned an average of $23.7 million in total compensation . . . During the 1990s boom, most investors didn’t bat an eye over exorbitant CEO pay levels. Few seemed to care how much these guys (sic) earned, as long as the stock market continued to climb. Since the bulk of CEO compensation came in the form of gains from stock options, many people figured these executives would rake it in only as long as everyone else did. However, as signs of the economic slowdown emerged, many CEOs managed to insulate themselves. The 52 layoff leaders . . . received 20 percent raises in salaries and bonuses last year. Meanwhile, average wage workers received a pay increase of only 3 percent in 2000, and salaried employees got about 4 percent. Economic inequality in our country is rapidly growing. Executive pay jumped 571 percent between 1990 and 2000 while growth in worker pay—37 percent—barely outpaced inflation. Here’s one way to put the increase in CEO pay in perspective: If the minimum wage, which stood at $3.80 an hour in 1990, had grown at the same rate as CEO pay over the decade, it would now be $25.50 an hour, rather than the current $5.15 an hour. If the average annual pay for production workers had grown at the same rate since 1990 as it has for CEOs, these workers would have earned $120,491 instead of $24,668 in 2000. The growing gap between CEO and worker pay would be less worrisome if workers at the bottom of these firms made enough to make ends meet. A new study by the Economic Policy Institute shows that 29 percent of working families don’t earn a living wage. More than 70 percent of these experience real hardships, having to skip meals, rent payments and medical care . . . Labor day is a reminder that all of us—not just the CEOs of our largest corporations—contribute to the economy. And let’s honor that contribution by helping those who are left behind, and by curbing the vast inequalities that so offend our basic American value of fairness.”
This Labor Day, thirteen years later, nothing has changed. In fact, in significant ways, matters are worse by both measures of extreme concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer persons as well as the expanding challenges and despair of hard working Americans. American Labor is not sharing in the productivity of the U.S. economic engine despite significant increases in labor productivity. Furthermore, do not be deceived, the effects of this unfair and unjust distribution of wealth are creeping up the income ladder. The supposed financial security of the solid middle and upper middle class is eroding too. In another thirteen years, barring real change in this pattern of unjust and unlivable wages in our country, I believe we will find ourselves celebrating Serf Day.