Center for American Progress Action

RELEASE: New CAP Action Analysis Reveals the Narrative of Growing Inequality Between Fortune 500 Companies’ Executives and Workers
Press Release

RELEASE: New CAP Action Analysis Reveals the Narrative of Growing Inequality Between Fortune 500 Companies’ Executives and Workers

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for American Progress Action Fund released a new report that shows that the robust corporate growth, and the commitment from major Fortune 500 American retailers to raise wages, has not fully translated into major gains for workers. As of 2014, more than 4.8 million Americans—or about 5.8 percent of the U.S. workforce—were employed as retail salespeople—more people than in any other comparable category of occupation. Yet the analysis’ findings show large disparities in wages: The highest-paid executives at retail companies earned approximately 714 times as much as  a worker working full time at minimum wage and 513 times as much as an average cashier working full time.

The Center for American Progress Action Fund partnered with ThinkProgress to send media inquires to all Fortune 500 retailers that employ workers in retail stores. In the survey, the companies were asked about their best practices in five areas: wages; paid sick days; paid family and medical leave; scheduling policies; and equal pay. A list of Fortune 500 retailers with major stores or retail outfits was screened to ensure that all companies were represented; a total of 44 independent retailers were surveyed, and 36 were analyzed for this report.

“Top executive pay is pulling even further away from middle-income and low-wage workers, who drive the production and success of these companies,” said Ryan Erickson, Associate Director of Economic Campaigns at CAP Action. “We need the transparency and full commitment of Fortune 500 companies to invest in the hard work of millions of Americans, because what is good for workers is good for the economy.”

The responses to the survey and the fact that other retailers have announced plans to pay workers higher wages, shows momentum on increasing wages and overall benefits for minimum wage and retail workers. However, the lack of responses to the inquiries demonstrates that large retail companies are likely not to disclose wage and benefit information. CAP Action and ThinkProgress have outlined the following suggestions that federal, state, and local policymakers—as well as executives, as leaders in their industries—should support in order to ensure that all retail and minimum wage workers have the ability to have economic security, regardless of where they work:

  • Raise the minimum wage. Proposals to raise the minimum wage can help workers and their families gain a fair shot at economic stability. Raising the wage benefits women, especially in the retail industry, since women are one in five retail workers is a sole breadwinner.
  • Mandate paid sick days. The lack of paid sick days creates significant challenges for workers. Currently, 44 million private-sector workers do not have access to paid sick days—including 44 percent of black workers and nearly half of Hispanic workers.
  • Guarantee workers paid family and medial leave. Only 12 percent of private-sector workers have access to paid family and medial leave.
  • Ensure fair scheduling practices. Setting stability and flexibility in workers’ schedules would help balance the demands of work-family life.
  • Stop gender pay discrimination in the workplace. More than 1.3 million women working in the retail industry live at or near the federal poverty line. Ensuring that both men and women are paid the same for equal work can benefit the economic security of millions of workers.

Read the report: Inequality for Sale by Ryan Erickson

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, please contact Jennifer Molina at jmolina@americanprogressaction.org or 202.796.9706.