Workplace Fairness

Menu

Skip to main content

  • print
  • decrease text sizeincrease text size
    text

Field Museum Workers Say It’s Time for the CEO to Start Making Sacrifices, Too

Share this post

Facing devasting pay cuts and layoffs amid the Covid-19 crisis, workers at Chicago’s Field Museum are organizing to demand greater transparency and equitable sacrifice from upper management.

“We fear these cuts will disproportionately impact staff of color and those already paid the least,” Field Museum workers explain in a petition that has now garnered over 1,700 signatures. “We are proud to call the Field home, and are prepared to make sacrifices to preserve it for generations to come. We are asking leadership to do the same.”

Best known for being the home of SUE, the most intact T. rex skeleton in the world, the Field is the nation’s third largest natural history museum after the Smithsonian and New York’s American Museum of Natural History. As of 2019, the museum had an endowment of approximately $440 million, up from $299 million in 2012.

The museum has been shuttered since mid-March due to the pandemic, and it remains unclear when it will be able to reopen to the public. Though the Field secured a loan from the federal Paycheck Protection Program and 70% of its revenue comes from sources other than ticket sales, at a May 19 virtual town hall with employees, CEO Richard Lariviere announced an impending 10% pay cut as well as an unspecified number of layoffs.

“At the town hall, we had a lot of staff proposing alternatives and various cost-cutting ideas like rotating furloughs, graduated pay reductions, and reducing hours, and asking if those had been explored,” says Anna Villanyi, an educator who has worked at the museum for two years. “But those ideas were dismissed without transparency about to what degree leadership had already explored them.”

Lariviere’s total compensation in 2018—the most recent year with available data—was $796,000. While the presidents of the Boston Museum of Science and American Museum of Natural History have respectively taken a 50% and 25%pay cut in light of the crisis, Lariviere reportedly dismissed the idea of reducing his own compensation as “a meaningless gesture.”

“A lot of museums are experiencing hardship due to this time, and we can see the different ways that is being addressed,” Villanyi tells In These Times. “We have such a large and seemingly financially stable institution that’s choosing not to make equitable moves like graduated pay cuts that other museums are doing.”

The Field Museum’s nearly 400 employees include scientists, collection managers, educators, technicians, guest services workers, maintenance workers and security guards. Many, like Villanyi, have been working from home during the pandemic, but others, like those who manage the upkeep of the museum’s exhibits, are not able to work from home.

Staff who can work remotely have been donating their vacation hours to their coworkers who don’t have the option of working from home, ensuring they continue receiving income. “It has been a really helpful act of sacrifice,” Villanyi says. “I believe it’s been over $200,000 worth of vacation hours that have been donated into that pool.”

In addition to aiding one another through the crisis, Field Museum employees have also been helping the public by sewing face masks and repurposing 3-D printers to make face shields for frontline workers.

The museum workers are specifically calling for a moratorium on pay cuts and layoffs until they can have a greater voice in cost-cutting measures, particularly by having a staff representative present at all future budget meetings.

“I’m hopeful that the increased awareness through our petition puts pressure on accountability for those things to happen,” Villanyi says.

Their organizing effort is being assisted by the Emergency Workplace Organizing Committee (EWOC), a joint project of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) and the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).

EWOC was launched shortly after the pandemic hit the United States to give non-union workers the resources needed to organize their own workplaces around coronavirus-related demands like hazard pay, sick leave and provision of personal protective equipment.

UE International Representative Mark Meinster says that over 1,000 workers from a range of industries including fast food, manufacturing, meatpacking, retail and higher education have received advice and assistance through EWOC on how to take workplace action around Covid-19 related issues.

With help from EWOC, workers around the country have already won several victories, including improved health and safety measures for grocery workers in Texas and Pennsylvania, and hazard pay for 250 Taco Bell workers in Michigan.

Meinster says that most of the work of EWOC is done through volunteers including DSA members, former Bernie Sanders campaign staff and UE activists.

“We’re building on models developed around the Bernie Sanders campaign of doing distributed organizing—where you’ve got a large group of motivated volunteers—and apply that model to workplace organizing,” Meinster explains. “That’s one of the keys to revitalizing a fighting labor movement. We’ve got to figure out how to go beyond mere staff resources and engage lots of motivated people out there.”

Meinster says the Field Museum organizing is a perfect example of workers organically coming together and reaching out to EWOC for assistance. “Like all museum workers, they’re facing some real difficult fights,” he says. “But here we’re seeing workers start to stand up and do something about it.”

This blog originally appeared at In These Times on June 12, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Jeff Schuhrke is a Working In These Times contributor based in Chicago. He has a Master’s in Labor Studies from UMass Amherst and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in labor history at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He was a summer 2013 editorial intern at In These Times. Follow him on Twitter: @JeffSchuhrke.


Share this post

12 Facts You Need to Know from the 2019 AFL-CIO Executive Paywatch Report

Share this post

The AFL-CIO this week released its annual Executive Paywatch report. AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler discussed the federation’s findings during a call with reporters, highlighting the continuing pay inequity between workers and CEOs, discussing the impact of the Trump administration’s tax law on executive compensation and pointing out some of the worst offenders among major corporations.

About the report, Shuler said:

Here’s the key point: Even with that extra cash, wages are not keeping up with inflation. The average worker isn’t making enough to cover rent for a two-bedroom apartment in 15 of the largest cities across the country! Meanwhile, 40% of hourly workers have nothing saved up for an emergency, while 75% have less than $500.

We know this equality gap isn’t new. Over the past decade, the average S&P 500 CEO’s pay increased by more than $5 million, while the average worker only saw an increase of less than $800 a year. Not surprisingly, the CEO-to-worker pay ratio remains high: 287 to 1.

I’ll repeat that: 287 to 1. Meaning the average CEO earns 287 times what an average employee earns.

This disparity represents a fundamental problem with our economy: Productivity and corporate profits are through the roof, but wages for working people are flat—and staying flat.

Here are 12 key findings from the report that illustrate Shuler’s words:

  1. The average S&P 500 company CEO-to-worker pay ratio was 287 to 1.
  2. In 2018, CEOs of S&P 500 companies received, on average, $14.5 million in total compensation.
  3. This year marks the first where nearly all S&P 500 companies have disclosed the pay ratio between their CEO and median employee. This important disclosure did not come easy. Major corporations and industry groups lobbied long and hard to hide this valuable information from shareholders and the general public.
  4. The average S&P 500 CEO’s pay has increased by $5.2 million over the past 10 years, a CEO pay increase of more than half a million dollars annually.
  5. The average U.S. rank-and-file worker’s pay has increased only $7,858 over the past 10 years, a pay increase of less than $800 per year annually.
  6. Sixty of the largest U.S. companies paid $0 in income taxes in 2018 despite being profitable, including corporations like Amazon, Netflix, Delta and General Motors.
  7. Corporate income tax collections fell by $93 million in fiscal year 2018 after the passage of the 2017 Republican tax cut, a 31% drop.
  8. Stock buybacks by the top 15 U.S. companies with the largest holdings of cash abroad spiked dramatically after the 2017 corporate tax cut on overseas profits. Ten of the largest U.S. companies—Amgen, Apple, Bank of America, Cisco Systems, Citigroup, Facebook, JP Morgan, Microsoft, Oracle and Wells Fargo—combined to buy back more than a quarter-billion dollars of their own stocks in 2018. Not surprisingly, the average CEO pay for these companies increased dramatically as well.
  9. Tesla CEO Elon Musk was the highest paid CEO in 2018. His compensation package was estimated to be worth nearly $2.3 billion, although many doubt that he can achieve his performance targets. Tesla had the highest pay ratio out of all companies: 40,668 to 1.
  10. On the other hand, 14 companies paid their CEO one dollar or less in 2018.
  11. The highest pay ratio for S&P 500 companies was at clothing retailer Gap, where the pay ratio was 3,566 to 1 and the median employee earned $5,831 (a part-time sales associate).
  12. The lowest pay ratio in the S&P 500 was at Alphabet (parent of Google), where its co-founder and CEO Larry Page received just $1 compared to its median employee pay of $246,804.

In conclusion, Shuler said:

Bottom line: For too long, corporate greed and rigged economic rules have created a relentlessly growing pay gap between CEOs and the rest of us. It’s why everything from a college education to retirement security to gas prices are getting harder and harder for people to afford. We see it every day in communities across the country. And that must change.

Our economy works best when consumers have money to spend. That means raising wages for workers and reining in out-of-control executive pay. This year’s report is a stark reminder that working people must use our collective voice to form bigger, stronger unions and rewrite the economic rules once and for all.

This article appeared originally in Aflcio on June 27, 2019. Reprinted with permission.


Share this post

5 Things You Need to Know from the AFL-CIO’s New Executive Paywatch Report

Share this post

Today, the AFL-CIO released the 2017 edition of its Executive Paywatch report. The Executive Paywatch website, the most comprehensive, searchable online database tracking CEO pay, showed that in 2016, the average production and nonsupervisory worker earned some $37,600 per year. When adjusted for inflation, the average wage has remained stagnant for 50 years.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka explained the importance of these details:

This year’s report provides further proof that the greed of corporate CEOs is driving America’s income inequality crisis. Big corporations continually find ways to rig the economy in their favor and line their CEOs’ pockets at the expense of the workers who make their businesses run. Too often, corporations see workers as costs to be cut, rather than assets to be invested in. It’s shameful that CEOs can make tens of millions of dollars and still destroy the livelihoods of the hardworking people who make their companies profitable.

Here are five key things you should know from this year’s Executive Paywatch report:

1. The average compensation for an S&P 500 CEO last year was $13.1 million. In contrast, production and nonsupervisory workers earned only $37,632, on average, in 2016. The average S&P 500 CEO makes 347 times what an average U.S. rank-and-file worker makes.

2. Last year, S&P 500 CEOs got a 5.9% raise while working people struggled to make ends meet.

3. Many U.S. corporations aren’t paying taxes on their offshore profits, shifting the burden to working people. The worst of the tax avoiders, 18 Fortune 500 companies, paid $0 in federal taxes between 2008 and 2015.

4. Fortune 500 corporations are avoiding up to $767 billion in U.S. federal income taxes by holding $2.6 trillion of “permanently reinvested” profits offshore. This offshoring isn’t an accident, it’s a choice, and it has an impact on the lives of Americans. For example, last year, Mondel?z International chose to offshore some 600 jobs from its Chicago Nabisco bakery. In the same year, its CEO, Irene Rosenfeld, made $16.7 million.

5. Seven years ago, Congress passed a law that included a rule requiring all publicly traded companies to disclose their CEO-to-worker pay ratio. But Wall Street and big corporations have lobbied hard to stop the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission from enforcing this rule. Take action now to change that.

This post was originally posted on AFL-CIO on May 9, 2017. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Kenneth Quinnell is a long-time blogger, campaign staffer and political activist.  Before joining the AFL-CIO in 2012, he worked as labor reporter for the blog Crooks and Liars.  Previous experience includes Communications Director for the Darcy Burner for Congress Campaign and New Media Director for the Kendrick Meek for Senate Campaign, founding and serving as the primary author for the influential state blog Florida Progressive Coalition and more than 10 years as a college instructor teaching political science and American History.  His writings have also appeared on Daily Kos, Alternet, the Guardian Online, Media Matters for America, Think Progress, Campaign for America’s Future and elsewhere.


Share this post

Follow this Blog

Subscribe via RSS Subscribe via RSS

Or, enter your address to follow via email:

Recent Posts

Forbes Best of the Web, Summer 2004
A Forbes "Best of the Web" Blog

Archives

  • Tracking image for JustAnswer widget
  • Find an Employment Lawyer

  • Support Workplace Fairness

 
 

Find an Employment Attorney

The Workplace Fairness Attorney Directory features lawyers from across the United States who primarily represent workers in employment cases. Please note that Workplace Fairness does not operate a lawyer referral service and does not provide legal advice, and that Workplace Fairness is not responsible for any advice that you receive from anyone, attorney or non-attorney, you may contact from this site.