Years ago, before I became a paid fire medic, I was a volunteer, and I made my living in industrial automation. It was a tough life, and layoffs were common, because Florida doesn’t have much industry to automate. One of the places that I worked was a certain theme park that was infested by a huge rat.
We, the employees, had a meeting once with management to discuss the future of the company. We were told that the company’s vision was to have no permanent, full time employees. Replacing the full time workforce would save the company approximately $90 million in benefit costs each year. Later in the meeting, during the question and answer portion, of my coworkers pointed out that he had read an article that the CEO had been paid $270 million in salary, perks, and stock options the year before. He asked if it would be more prudent to let the 30,000 full time employees keep their benefits, pay the CEO $180 million, and the company would still save the same amount each year.
The management team told us that executive compensation was not up for discussion. My coworker pressed on: He asked how one man could be worth three times as much as every other employee combined. After all, he pointed out, if the CEO was on vacation for a week, no one would notice, but if the other 30,000 of us didn’t show up for work for a week, the company would shut down.
He was disciplined for advocating a strike.
I think he had a valid question. The Disney CEO received nearly $53 million in salary and stock options last year. Disney’s 58,000 other employees received $1 billion, meaning that the CEO was paid 3,075 times as much as the average employee. I can see paying a CEO more than the average employee, but how can you justify paying him more than 3,000 average employees COMBINED? You can’t claim it is because he is such a great CEO, not when the company has shown a loss during four of the six years that the he has headed the company.
I think that the occupy movement has a legitimate beef, I just think that government intervention is not the answer.