Schadenfreude Watch

"CEO Pay Watch"The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) can count many accomplishments in its long, proud history: the weekend;  safer workplaces; improved race relations (Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated while supporting a strike by workers at AFSCME, which is the largest affiliate of the AFL-CIO) and much, much more.

But one of the AFL-CIO’s  most popular, current efforts is a website called “Executive PayWatch.”

This annually updated mother lode of compensation information came live this week with the 2010 numbers and analysis.

It ain’t pretty.

  • “Overall, CEOs of the 299 companies in the AFL-CIO Executive PayWatch database received a combined total of $3.4 billion in pay in 2010, enough to support 102,325 jobs paying the median wages for all workers.”
  • “The Wall Street executives who helped create the financial crisis and economic recession also did well. While cash bonuses fell, total compensation for Wall Street firms increased in 2010. The Wall Street Journal estimates that total compensation at large financial services companies rose 5.7 percent to a record $149 billion in 2010.”
  • “During the past decade, CEOs of the largest American companies received more in compensation than ever before in U.S. history. They supposedly deserved this money for increasing stock prices. Did they? On Dec. 31, 2010, the S&P 500 Index closed 19 percent below its high on March 24, 2000.”

Conceived by AFL President Richard Trumka and the inestimable William Blake Patterson, the nifty web technology PayWatch initially allowed anyone to check the ratio between their pay and that of the boss (technically, the boss needed to be the CEO of a publicly held company). PayWatch came out when many of those overpaid CEOs were revealed to be cooking the books, such as at Enron, Tyco, and WorldCom, so we enjoyed their pay cuts.

Now, what began as an exercise in schadenfreude, (that German word for the delight in the downfall of the mighty) has become the go-to resource for executive compensation data.  “It’s the most popular suite of pages on our website,” says Brandon Rees, deputy director of the AFL-CIO Office of Investment.   The CEO database allows searching by company, state, name and more.  Any shareholder can learn how to apply their share ownership  prerogatives in the “What Can You Do” page.

PayWatch is awesome repository of applied information. We encourage all to enjoy and spread the data and help shine a spotlight on the immoral disparity between Main Street and Wall Street pay.

We also encourage all to take action against Wall Street’s outrageous pay practices which, in addition to being unjust and unfair, threaten the long-term stability of our economy.