As millions of workers across the US attempt to unionize and plan going on strike over low wages, a new analysis finds that the median pay package for top chief executives jumped to $14.7 million in 2021-- a sixth consecutive record in executive compensation.
Total compensation rose by at least 12 percent for most of the CEOs as the largest US companies recorded shareholder returns of nearly 30 percent, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data for more than 400 companies.
Nine chief executives at the largest American companies received $50 million or more in total compensation in 2021, up from just one in 2016 and seven in 2020.
"Much of the pay consisted of equity awards that could ultimately prove to be worth more or less than initially reported," the Journal reported. "In 2020, the median pay package was $13.4 million for the same companies, with median cash compensation of $3.1 million."
The rising CEO remunerations stand in stark contrast to the economic hardships that ordinary workers are experiencing nationwide as inflation chips away at the modest wage increases at the time when the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged many sectors of the economy.
"While most of America struggles to put gas in the tank and pay the grocery bills, price-gouging, excessive-profit-taking CEOs used their captive boards to award themselves record pay," Jennifer Taub, a professor at Western New England University School of Law and an expert on corporate governance, tweeted.
Workers at several large companies, whose CEOs receive multi-million-dollar compensation packages --including Amazon, Starbucks, and Apple—are trying to unionize to make their voices heard in the face of stern opposition from management.
Additionally, workers in fast-food and retail sectors who worked on the frontlines throughout the pandemic are continuing a trend of strikes and protests over low wages and poor work conditions.
"My weekly paycheck is no more than $200, $260 at the max," Ashley Sierra, a Dollar General employee who makes $11 an hour, told The Guardian. "I have three children, I cannot survive on $260 a week, it's just not working."
This is while Todd Vasos, Dollar General's CEO, took home $16.45 million in total compensation last year.