Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Dear Common Dreams Readers:
Corporations and billionaires have their own media. Shouldn't we? When you “follow the money” that funds our independent journalism, it all leads back to this: people like you. Our supporters are what allows us to produce journalism in the public interest that is beholden only to people, our planet, and the common good. Please support our Mid-Year Campaign so that we always have a newsroom for the people that is funded by the people. Thank you for your support. --Jon Queally, managing editor

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

 Reps. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) join a rally against the proposed Republican tax reform legislation on the east side of the U.S. Capitol November 15, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Detailing CEO-Worker Pay Gaps as High as 5,000 to 1, It's Clear Why Corporate Execs Didn't Want This Report Released

"I knew inequality was a great problem in our society but I didn’t understand quite how extreme it was," says Rep. Keith Ellison

Jake Johnson

Major American corporations have spent a lot of time, energy, and cash "scheming" to hide the enormous pay disparities between their workers and CEOs, and a new report published Wednesday by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) makes it abundantly clear why.

"This immense inequality is a crisis for our economy and our democracy, and we need legislative action at the local, state and federal level to address it."
—Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.)

Titled "Rewarding or Hoarding" (pdf), Ellison's study—described as "the first comprehensive analysis of CEO pay ratios of large, publicly traded companies"—draws upon Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) data and finds that the average CEO-to-median worker pay ratio of the 225 companies examined was 339 to 1, while the largest ratio was nearly 5,000 to 1.

"The median worker at the vast majority of these companies wouldn't make in an entire 45-year career—and in many cases, multiple careers—what their CEO makes in a single year," Ellison said in a statement. "This immense inequality is a crisis for our economy and our democracy, and we need legislative action at the local, state and federal level to address it."

"It is important to remember that many CEOs and top executives didn't want to release this data," Ellison added.

The only reason these staggering numbers are publicly available in the first place is because of a pay transparency rule inserted in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, against the will of corporate executives and their allies in Congress.

For years, companies dragged their feet and put off complying with the rule, arguing that it is too vague or overly burdensome. Last year, the Trump administration moved to kill the rule entirely.

But, as Sarah Anderson noted in an op-ed for on Wednesday, "Ellison and other Democrats, along with responsible investors and economic justice advocates, defend the rule—and won."

With the pay-ratio data now trickling in, Ellison told the Guardian that even he was surprised by the sheer size of the gulf between deep-pocketed executives and average workers.

"I knew inequality was a great problem in our society but I didn’t understand quite how extreme it was," Eliison said.

To address these vast inequities, Ellison proposes a number of solutions, including banning stock buy-backs—which have increased dramatically since the GOP's $1.5 trillion tax cuts went into effect—and hiking the top marginal tax rate.

"But we also need to increase the voice of workers," Ellison concluded. "It's not like this concentration and hoarding of wealth has no consequence. Everytime [CEOs] acquire more, it means someone else gets less."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

"I'm sure this will be all over the corporate media, right?"
That’s what one longtime Common Dreams reader said yesterday after the newsroom reported on new research showing how corporate price gouging surged to a nearly 70-year high in 2021. While major broadcasters, newspapers, and other outlets continue to carry water for their corporate advertisers when they report on issues like inflation, economic inequality, and the climate emergency, our independence empowers us to provide you stories and perspectives that powerful interests don’t want you to have. But this independence is only possible because of support from readers like you. You make the difference. If our support dries up, so will we. Our crucial Mid-Year Campaign is now underway and we are in emergency mode to make sure we raise the necessary funds so that every day we can bring you the stories that corporate, for-profit outlets ignore and neglect. Please, if you can, support Common Dreams today.


Abortion Rights Defenders Applaud Judge's Block on Utah 'Trigger Ban'

"Today is a win, but it is only the first step in what will undoubtedly be a long and difficult fight," said one pro-choice advocate.

Brett Wilkins ·

Scores Feared Dead and Wounded as Russian Missiles Hit Ukraine Shopping Center

"People just burned alive," said Ukraine's interior minister, while the head of the Poltava region stated that "it is too early to talk about the final number of the killed."

Brett Wilkins ·

Biodiversity Risks Could Persist for Decades After Global Temperature Peak

One study co-author said the findings "should act as a wake-up call that delaying emissions cuts will mean a temperature overshoot that comes at an astronomical cost to nature and humans that unproven negative emission technologies cannot simply reverse."

Jessica Corbett ·

Amnesty Report Demands Biden Take Action to End Death Penalty

"The world is waiting for the USA to do what almost 100 countries have achieved during this past half-century—total abolition of the death penalty," said the group.

Julia Conley ·

Pointing to 'Recently Obtained Evidence,' Jan. 6 Panel Calls Surprise Tuesday Hearing

The announcement came less than a week after the House panel delayed new hearings until next month, citing a "deluge" of fresh evidence.

Common Dreams staff ·

Common Dreams Logo