Feb 6, 2007

Social justice group addresses CEO pay

Working in a legislative office, I get to peruse the mail that comes through the office, and there is a lot of it. I had the privilege recently to discover the monthly newsletter from a group called “Gray Panthers of Huron Valley.”

It was filled with lots of useful and interesting information on global warming, environmental information, union membership, the Iraq occupation and Michigan prisons.

I thought it was a group of retirees, but after doing some research I found out I was wrong. Basically, it’s a national organization of activists of all ages dedicated to social change. They work to make America a better place to live for the young, the old and everyone-in-between. They address peace, health care, jobs, housing and lots of other concerns to citizens.

The organization was established in 1970 by Maggie Kuhn when a group of five friends that had recently retired from national religious and social work organizations met to address the common problems faced by retirees — loss of income, loss of contact with associates and loss of one of our society's most distinguishing social roles, one's job. The group also discovered they had the time and energy to address some of society’s most pressing problems of the day, and in 1970 that was the conflict in Vietnam.

The current newsletter had some excellent information on union membership and wages that was worth sharing. Less than 30 percent of the country's autoworkers that helped create the middle class in this country are unionized. Workers that dare try to unionize the auto parts suppliers and do better than the $10 an hour and few benefits are fired and harassed, and in one shop workers had to sue just to get paid for all the hours they worked.

The piece quotes Pulitzer Prize-winning national columnist Ellen Goodman, who pointed out that political scientists blame this on the “personal responsibility crusade of conservatives that say we need to take ownership of our economic future and personal responsibility for our lives,” but it ignores the basic America core values of fairness and caring for the vulnerable that we should insure each other against the unforeseen effects of a sudden illness, unemployment and old age.

CEO compensation is a prefect example of the problem. In 1965 the average CEO was earning 24 times what the average worker was making. But in 2005, the average CEO was making 262 times what the average worker is making. The CEO of Home Depot made $38 million, or roughly $100,000 a day, in 2005, but the average worker who is selling the product and is the public face of the company is making just $10 an hour on average with few if any benefits. The CEO continues to make this outrageous salary despite the company’s stock going down 6 percent in six years. To me, that’s just an amazing stat.

I could not find an e-mail address for the Gray Panthers of Huron Valley, but their mailing address is 3470 Carpenter Rd #211, Ypsilanti, Mi. 48197. I urge anyone interested in social justice to join.

No comments: