It's no surprise that the people running the nation's largest corporations take home hefty paychecks. Possibly more eye-opening is the ever-widening gap between what CEOs earn and what their workers are paid.
Last year, the average chief executive of a company listed on the S&P 500 made $12.4 million, or 335 times the $36,875 paid to average workers. That ratio stood at 107-to-1 in 1990 and 42-to-1 a decade earlier.
"Corporate CEOs have rewritten the rules of our economy," Heather Slavkin Corzo, director of the office of investment at the AFL-CIO, which used regulatory filings and Department of Labor statistics to compile its findings, said in a news conference to discuss the union's compensation findings. "They are also looting their companies and the public purse so they can keep getting richer. And they are squeezing workers and outsourcing jobs."
In addition to offering an accounting of what Corporate America's head honchos make, the AFL-CIO's annual PayWatch analysis looks at how CEO pay may relate to corporate income tax avoidance. Chief executives overseeing companies with the most cash held overseas to defer paying taxes are paid 79 percent more than other CEOs, it concludes.
U.S. companies hold a total of $2.4 trillion offshore, with the U.S. losing as much as $695 billion in tax revenues that could be used to "finance schools, bridges, hospitals, fire stations and other infrastructure projects around the country," Corzo said. "By failing to invest in infrastructure, education and our workforce, we are allowing the critical components of future U.S. economic success to atrophy."
Mondelez (MDLZ) chairman and CEO Irene Rosenfeld made $19.7 million in 2015, 534 times the average worker's pay, and her company holds $19.2 billion in unrepatriated profits, according to the AFL-CIO. Of late, critics have attacked the food conglomerate for trying to send 600 jobs from its Nabisco bakery in Chicago to a plant Mexico.
Among those already laid off from the Nabisco plant is Michael Smith, a 59-year-old father of four with prostate cancer, whose health insurance is scheduled to lapse three months after his March separation from the company.
"It's been a difficult year for me," Smith said during the press briefing, describing daily bouts of depression and worry about "whether, at my age, I could reinvent myself in today's job market."
Michael Mitchell, a spokesperson for Mondelez, defended Rosenfeld's earnings, stressing the role she plays in delivering shareholder value: "Over the past three years, Mondelēz International has delivered annualized Total Shareholder Return of 18.6 percent, which places us at the top of our peer set."
United Technologies (UTX), which plans to move two of its Carrier heating and ventilating parts plants from Indiana to Mexico and to eliminate more than 2,000 jobs in the U.S., also made the AFL-CIO's list of top tax dodgers. Its CEO, Gregory Hayes, made $10.7 million in 2015, while the company holds $29 billion overseas.
Verizon Communications (VZ) CEO Lowell McAdam earned $18.3 million in 2015, while the telecommunications company holds $1.8 billion outside the U.S. The company is engaged in a labor dispute with 39,000 striking workers as it looks to, as Corzo put it, "outsource work to low-paid contractors."
Neither United Technologies nor Verizon returned requests for comment.