Low-Wage Workers Lost Hours, Jobs, and Lives. Their Employers Bent the Rules — To Pump up CEO Paychecks.
In 2008, executives chasing after huge paydays crashed the U.S. economy. That crisis left millions of Americans homeless and jobless. Today, we’re living through a period of even greater national suffering.Over the course of the pandemic, our frontline workers have repeatedly proven how absolutely essential their work remains. And yet, as we document in this 27th annual Institute for Policy Studies Executive Excess report, corporate boards are performing cartwheels to protect huge paychecks at the top of our corporate hierarchies.Over half of America’s largest low-wage employers, we found, bent the rules to boost CEO pay last year — even as essential workers took the biggest risks to keep the economy running.This kind of greed left working families much more vulnerable even before the COVID-19 crisis, with nearly 40 percent of Americans unable to afford a $400 emergency. During the pandemic itself, it spelled catastrophe for ordinary families.Meanwhile, corporate chief executives in the United States have continued to score the sorts of windfalls that have ballooned billionaire wealth by over $1 trillion since the pandemic began. Our corporate compensation practices have, in effect, delivered prosperity for the few and precarity for the many.We need a new model for American business. Tax incentives and other policy measures could help create it.Download PDF