The CEO-to-Worker Pay Gap Is Climbing to Truly Obscene Levels

Link: https://jacobin.com/2022/06/ceo-worker-pay-gap-obscene-levels-lowest-median-wages

Excerpt:

new report from the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) analyzes compensation at the three hundred publicly held US corporations with the lowest median wages in 2020. The report, authored by Sarah Anderson, Sam Pizzigati, and Brian Wakamo, finds that the average gap between CEO and median worker pay jumped to 670:1 in 2021, up from 604:1 in 2020. Forty-nine of the firms had ratios above 1,000:1.

Wages at 106 of the firms did not keep pace with the 4.7 percent average US inflation rate last year, and of those, sixty-seven spent resources buying back their own stock, with repurchases totaling $43.7 billion. The biggest buybacks took place at Lowe’s, Target, and Best Buy. As the IPS notes, “With the $13 billion Lowe’s spent on share purchases, the company could have given each of its 325,000 employees a $40,000 raise. Instead, median pay at the company fell 7.6 percent to $22,697.” None of the big-box stores’ retail workers are currently unionized, though there are nascent union campaigns underway at several Target stores.

Of the three hundred companies analyzed by the IPS, 40 percent received federal contracts between October 1, 2019 and May 1, 2022, for a combined value of $37.2 billion. Only six of the 119 contractors had pay gaps of less than 100:1. Maximus, a company that handles federal student debts and Medicare call centers, took in the most federal contracts of any of the firms, with $12.3 billion during the period under consideration. IPS notes that Maximus CEO Bruce Caswell made $7.9 million in compensation, or 208 times the firm’s median income and thirty-six times the salary of the officials who direct the agencies awarding the contracts.

Author(s): Alex N. Press

Publication Date: 7 June 2022

Publication Site: Jacobin

Why For-Profit Workplace Insurance Ruins Workers’ Lives

Link: https://jacobin.com/2022/06/victoria-australia-workers-comp-private-insurance

Excerpt:

In Victoria, Australia, a broken workplace injury compensation system is letting workers down. WorkSafe is the state’s institution that regulates industry safety standards and governs workplace injury insurance. However, its workers’ compensation arm, WorkCover, outsources the handling of workers’ compensation claims to private insurance companies that place profit ahead of the health of our communities’ most vulnerable members.

Deprived of a political voice that can stand for them, injured workers report being stalked by private investigators in order to force them back into work before they have recovered. This frequently exacerbates their injuries and triggers new and often debilitating psychological harm. This harassment is most often targeted at workers with long-term injuries or those who are homebound as a result of their injuries.

Recently, however, injured workers from across Victoria have started coming together to campaign for change. Most importantly, they are demanding an end to outsourcing essential social services to private insurance agents who have an interest in cutting workers off from compensation payments as soon as possible. For these efforts to bear fruit, however, it’s crucial to understand the origins of the existing system that prioritizes insurance companies’ profits over injured and sick workers’ health.

Author(s): Reece Gittins

Publication Date: 9 June 2022

Publication Site: Jacobin

A Four-Day Workweek Will Benefit Everyone, But Especially Women

Link: https://jacobin.com/2022/03/four-day-workweek-trial-gender-pension-gap

Excerpt:

A four-day week would make it easier to balance life and work responsibilities. This would decrease the pressure on women to drop out of full-time employment and make it easier for others to rejoin full-time employment if they wish. It would also decrease underemployment, lessen the costs of paid childcare, and help level the playing field for unpaid care work by keeping men at home longer.

A recent policy paper published by the Women’s Budget Group comments in regard to a four-day week: “As the marginal worker is usually female, this effect could reduce gender gaps in both employment and income.” As the definition of full-time employment is decreased, more women will surpass the £10,000 a year threshold for autoenrollment and also have higher sustained pension contributions throughout their working life.

Belmont Packaging in Wigan, a company that practices a four-day week, asked its employees how they spend their three-day weekend. One employee said, “It’s like a bank holiday every week. Not exactly like one, because the wife has me doing chores every Friday.” During the early months of the pandemic, when many workers were kept at home, research showed that men took on a greater share of housework and women’s disproportionate burden decreased.

Author(s): James Derry

Publication Date: 25 March 2022

Publication Site: Jacobin

On Social Spending, the Question Isn’t “Can We Afford It?” but “Who Will Pay?”

Link:https://jacobinmag.com/2021/11/social-spending-biden-reconciliation-bill-build-back-better

Excerpt:

There are three possible answers to the question of who pays for social expenses. First, governments can pay by taxing their citizens to fund social programs. Second, employers can pay by using corporate revenues to provide employment-related benefits. Third, individuals and families can pay out of pocket, rely on unpaid labor from friends and relatives, or make do without.

For much of the twentieth century, the United States had a workable answer to the “Who pays?” question that drew on a mix of all three sources. Government provided certain social benefits like Social Security, Medicare, and public education. Aided by government tax incentives, many employers offered a wide range of benefits like health insurance and pensions, creating what political scientist Jacob Hacker refers to as a “public-private welfare regime.” And with one-third of the labor force unionized, and even nonunion employers pressured to match union-scale wages and benefits, many workers earned enough to support their families and handle the social expenses not covered by government- and employer-based programs.

….

For its part, government social spending has been uneven. Large universal programs like Medicare and Social Security have proven resistant to most retrenchment efforts, and Obamacare included a major expansion of Medicaid — though this was blocked in some Republican-dominated states. Meanwhile, more means-tested programs targeting low-income Americans have proven more vulnerable. In a context where employers have sharply cut back their commitment to providing social benefits, and individuals and their families are faced with stagnating wages, government’s response has proven inadequate.

Author(s):Barry Eidlin

Publication Date:28 Nov 2021

Publication Site: Jacobin