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For their CEOs, UPS delivers and Disney’s the happiest place on Earth 

Janet Nguyen Aug 1, 2023
UPS and the union representing 340,000 workers at the company reached a tentative deal that would boost workers' pay. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

For their CEOs, UPS delivers and Disney’s the happiest place on Earth 

Janet Nguyen Aug 1, 2023
UPS and the union representing 340,000 workers at the company reached a tentative deal that would boost workers' pay. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

As workers in many industries fight for higher wages, CEO pay has climbed to record highs. 

Compensation for chief executive officers rose a staggering 1,460% between 1978 and 2021, according to a 2022 report from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. 

Among the 350 publicly owned U.S. firms with the largest revenue, CEOs in 2021 made an average of $27.8 million, which includes stock grants and options. The ratio of CEO pay to that of the typical worker stands at 399 to 1. In 1965, the ratio was 20 to 1. 

CEO pay has risen exponentially as more of their pay has taken the form of stock, not cash. Meanwhile, workers’ wages have lagged over the past few decades, failing to keep pace with productivity. The Pew Research Center noted there are a variety of potential reasons for slow wage growth, including the decline of unions, noncompete clauses that prevent workers from getting higher salaries and jobs shifting from manufacturing and production to low-wage industries.

This vast compensation gap may be one factor driving the current upsurge in labor activism. Workers in numerous industries are considering going on strike, already on strike or forming unions to fight for better working conditions, higher wages and in some cases the very future of their profession as artificial intelligence threatens to undercut their roles. 

Unionization is actually on the decline, though, with membership dropping to a record low of 10.1% last year, or nearly half the level of 1983. But public perception of unions has improved. Seventy-one percent of Americans approve of labor unions, the highest level since 1965, according to a 2022 Gallup poll. Also, most Americans believe the decline in unionization is somewhat or very bad for working people, according to a poll this spring from the Pew Research Center. 

The current multiunion strike in the entertainment industry is a high-profile example of labor calling out these dramatic pay disparities. Actors represented by the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists officially went on strike in mid-July, joining the Writers Guild of America’s walkout. (SAG-AFTRA represents some journalists at Marketplace.)

During a speech announcing the strike, SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said: “When employers make Wall Street and greed their priority, and they forget about the essential contributors that make the machine run, we have a problem.”

In a CNBC interview, Disney CEO Bob Iger criticized the demands of writers and actors and said, “There’s a level of expectation that they have that is just not realistic.” 

Drescher responded to Iger in an interview with Variety, stating: “It’s so obvious that he has no clue as to what is really happening on the ground with hardworking people that don’t make anywhere near the salary he is making. High seven figures, eight figures, this is crazy money that they make.”

We decided to look at how much CEOs are compensated at various companies, including Disney, and how it compares to the typical worker at those companies. All figures are from company filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. 

Disney

CEO Bob Chapek’s 2022 compensation: $24.2 million

Median employee compensation: $54,256

CEO-to-employee pay ratio: 446-1

Bob Chapek may have been replaced by current CEO Bob Iger in November, but he exited with more than $24 million for the year. Iger, who served as CEO from 2005 to 2020, is set to earn up to $27 million a year, according to a 2022 SEC filing. 

His base pay is $1 million, and he can receive an additional $1 million bonus based on his performance. Iger is also entitled to a long-term incentive award with a target of $25 million. The majority of this compensation would take the form of performance-based restricted stock units, while the remainder would be paid in stock options.

In July, the Walt Disney Co. said Iger’s contract had been extended through 2026. 

Workers at the company have endured a tumultuous year, with the company laying off 7,000 employees as part of restructuring efforts and cost-cutting measures.

Netflix

Co-CEO Reed Hastings’ 2022 compensation: $51.1 million

Co-CEO Ted Sarandos’ 2022 compensation: $50.3 million

Median employee compensation: $218,400

CEO-to-employee pay ratio (Hastings): 234-1

CEO-to-employee pay ratio (Sarandos): 230-1

Reed Hastings is now the executive chairman of the company, with Ted Sarandos remaining co-CEO alongside new co-CEO Greg Peters. 

As streaming companies have gained prominence and TV seasons became shorter, writers say they’ve received smaller residuals payments and are working less. 

“A lot of young people that want to break in as writers are frightened because it used to be you could have a regular, middle-class living working as a writer,” TV writer Glenn Farrington told Marketplace. 

In a TikTok video, “Orange Is the New Black” actress Kimiko Glenn showed a recent residuals check she received for appearing on the early Netflix hit. The amount: $27.30. 

United Parcel Service

CEO Carol Tomé’s 2022 compensation: $19 million 

Median employee compensation: $52,144 

CEO-to-employee pay ratio: 364-1

The Teamsters union, which represents 340,000 workers at UPS, threatened a nationwide strike if it could not reach a new collective bargaining agreement with the package delivery service by the end of July. 

Last week, the two sides reached a tentative agreement, which will grant full- and part-time UPS Teamsters with a $2.75 hourly pay increase this year and a $7.50 hourly increase throughout the length of the contract. The minimum hourly pay for part-time workers will also immediately get bumped up to $21.

These pay raises come on top of concessions UPS had already made, which include ensuring that UPS delivery vehicles purchased after the beginning of next year have air conditioning and ending the company’s two-tier wage system, a structure that pays newer workers less even though they do the same amount of work as senior drivers.

The Big Three automakers (Stellantis, GM and Ford) 

Stellantis (parent company of Chrysler and Dodge) 

CEO Carlos Tavares’ 2022 compensation: $24.8 million (23.5 million euros) 

Average employee compensation: $67,789 (64,328 euros)

CEO-to-employee pay ratio: 365-1

General Motors

CEO Mary Barra’s 2022 compensation: $29 million 

Median employee compensation: $80,034 

CEO-to-employee pay ratio: 362-1 

Ford

CEO Jim Farley’s 2022 compensation: $21 million

Median employee compensation: $74,691

CEO-to-employee pay ratio: 281-1

In July, the United Auto Workers union began negotiating new contracts with the Big Three automakers — Stellantis, GM and Ford. The current contracts are set to expire Sept. 14. 

UAW President Shawn Fain said that the union, which represents 146,000 members at the Big Three, could strike if the automakers do not agree to its demands. 

“The Big Three is our strike target. And whether or not there’s a strike — it’s up to Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis, because they know what our priorities are. We’ve been clear,” Fain said in a Facebook address, according to CNN. 

The UAW is calling for higher pay, the end of wage tiers, pensions for new workers and the return of cost-of-living pay adjustments to account for inflation, according to The Associated Press. 

The union is also concerned that the transition to electric vehicles could result in lower-paying jobs. The AP said the Big Three are planning to build joint-venture battery plants in the Midwest and the South. An existing GM battery facility in Ohio pays between $16 and $22 an hour, while traditional autoworkers earn between $18 and $32 an hour, CNBC reported. 

The UAW, which endorsed President Joe Biden in 2020, has held off on endorsing him for the 2024 presidential election because of what his EV push could mean for workers, The Hill reported. In June, the union criticized the government for giving a loan to Ford as it builds joint-venture battery plants with South Korean company SK On. The union said it would “further enrich Ford shareholders” but shortchange UAW members.

Now, Democratic senators are calling on the Big Three to include EV workers in the national UAW contract.

Note: Because Stellantis’ compensation data was expressed in euros in the SEC report, we converted it to U.S. dollars based on the average exchange rate in 2022. 

Amazon 

CEO Andy Jassy’s 2022 compensation: $1.3 million

Median employee compensation: $34,195

CEO-to-employee pay ratio: 38-1 

Jassy’s 2021 compensation: $212.7 million

Median employee compensation: $32,855 

CEO-to-employee pay ratio: 6,474-1

Jassy’s $1.3 million compensation package in 2022 took a huge plunge, declining from almost $213 million in 2021. Because of the stark difference, we included his pay for both years. (Jassy stepped into the role in July 2021.)

Amazon’s annual proxy statement explained that the company did not grant equity awards to Jassy in 2022 and that his 2021 pay was due to stock awards that vest over a decade, which are “intended to represent most of Mr. Jassy’s compensation for the coming years.” 

In 2022, Amazon workers voted to form their first-ever union at a warehouse in Staten Island, New York. Employees have called for higher pay, longer breaks and paid time off for injuries, among other demands.

Starbucks

CEO Howard Schultz’s 2022 compensation: $374,558

Median employee compensation: $12,254

CEO-to-employee pay ratio: 31-1 

CEO Kevin Johnson’s 2021 compensation: $20.4 million

Median employee compensation: $12,935

CEO-to-employee pay ratio: 1,579-1

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz returned to helm the coffee giant between 2022 and 2023 amid a wave of successful unionization efforts at Starbucks locations. 

As interim CEO, he earned a symbolic $1 base salary, but his total compensation package in 2022 amounted to almost $375,000. Given that Schultz’s pay was unusual, we included the pay of his predecessor, Kevin Johnson, which was almost 1,580 times as high as that of the median employee. 

The nationwide labor shortage, the experience of working on the front lines during the pandemic and campaigns for a higher minimum wage energized Starbucks workers to fight for better pay. 

“We are just underpaid, overworked. We’re asked to work more hours. If somebody ever calls out, we are picking up for other people,” former Starbucks barista William Westlake said during a “Marketplace” interview in 2021.

United Airlines

CEO Scott Kirby’s 2022 compensation: $9.8 million 

Median employee compensation: $88,556

CEO-to-employee ratio: 111-1 

The pilots union for United Airlines authorized a strike vote this year, but averted a work stoppage after it was able to reach a tentative $10 billion deal with the airline. Pilots had been picketing for pay raises, which they had not received in more than four years. 

The deal will include pay increases of up to 40.2% over the next four years and an immediate wage bump ranging between 13.8% and 18.7%, according to The Associated Press. Pilots will also receive better retirement benefits and improved job security. 

Pilots unions have gained leverage amid a shortage of personnel. “Marketplace” previously reported that during the first year of the pandemic, when travel plummeted, airlines offered pilots incentives to retire early. But training a new pilot can take years and cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

American Airlines

CEO Robert Isom’s 2022 compensation: $5.03 million*

Median employee compensation: $71,665

CEO-to-employee pay ratio: 70-1

*Isom, who stepped into the role in March 2022, received $4.89 million in total compensation, but for pay-ratio calculation reasons, American Airlines said his annualized compensation was the equivalent of $5.03 million.

Over the next month, members of a union that represents American’s flight attendants will vote on whether to authorize a strike. 

The national president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants said that attendants with American have not received “cost-of-living increases or any other quality-of-life improvements.” Their demands include a 35% hourly pay increase and a 6% annual raise thereafter. First-year flight attendants currently make $30.35 an hour. 

American Airlines pilots have also called for higher pay, with nearly all voting in favor of a strike authorization earlier this year. But their union, the Allied Pilots Association, recently reached a tentative agreement with the air carrier.

The company has offered pilots a contract worth $9 billion, which it recently upped by $1 billion to match the improved pay and benefits that United Airlines offered its pilots, according to The Dallas Morning News.

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