The lowest workers on the totem poll at giant corporations, especially food service and retail chains, are lucky if they start at anything over minimum wage, which federally is $7.25 per hour in the USA. These employees might dream of working their way up in the company, through hard labor and perseverance, but most of the guys at the top got their job after working upper management elsewhere and earning MBAs. Don Thompson, CEO of McDonald’s, for example, certainly didn’t pay his way through school by flipping burgers.
It wasn’t always this way, though. According to The Atlantic, the CEO to employee wage gap has increased by a whopping factor of 10 times, in the past 50 years. In 1965, the average CEO made 20 times more than their workers. In 2000, this average spiked to an all time high of CEOs making 411 times more than their employees. Certain companies’ ratios, though, have spiked far beyond that average. Check out these 10 companies whose CEOs are rolling in dough, while their workers struggle to support themselves.
From a single store in Massachusetts in 1963, CVS has grown to one of the biggest pharmacy chains in the country and is ranked 12 on the US’s Fortune 500 list. CVS’s CEO Larry Merlo, rose his way through the ranks, starting as Executive Vice President, moving to COO, and was finally promoted to CEO in 2011.
As CEO, Merlo earns almost $6800 an hour, while the CVS store employees make an average of $8.81. According to a study by PayScale Inc, CVS has the highest wage gap out of the 100 highest grossing US companies. Making 769 times more than his employees, Merlo’s compensation increased 44 percent in 2012, while CVS had only a 15 percent jump in earnings.
7) TJ Maxx
According to their advertisements, TJ Maxx turns budget-conscious fashionistas into “Maxonistas,” who can buy stylish brand name clothing, for a 20 to 60 percent discount. TJ Maxx purchases surplus clothing from brand names at a huge discount, and re-sells it at affordable prices to shoppers. The store is great for people looking for a brand name without a brand price tag, but TJ Maxx’s CEO has no need to look for bargains for herself.
Earning about $7260 an hour, CEO Carol Meyrowitz, could afford to have her entire wardrobe custom made-by designers. Since Meyrowitz took over in 2007, TJ Maxx’s profits have tripled. TJ Maxx sales associate wages have, however, remained about the same. Earning an average of $7.85 an hour, Meyrowitz is earning 924 times more than her lowest employees.
The irony doesn’t escape us that the clothing store, Gap, has one of the biggest wage gaps in the country. Selling casual clothing like jeans and t-shirts, for infants to adults, CEO Glenn Murphy is responsible for thousands of corporate retail locations. Murphy left his position as CEO of Shoppers Drug Mart in Canada to become the CEO of Gap, in 2007. Since he’s been CEO, Murphy has grown Gap’s presence from seven to fifty countries.
For his leadership, Murphy earns $8200 per hour, which is 947 times more than the wage of Gap sales associates. This wage gap might be shocking, but even worse are the accusations of conditions for workers in Gap clothing factories, in countries like India and Bangladesh, where pay and safety are not guaranteed.
5) Dollar General
Dollar General has flourished during the great recession of the past few years, when consumers are vying for deals more than ever. Dollar General’s CEO, Rick Dreiling has certainly benefited from the average American’s need for low-priced goods and is making more than ever, but he’s slow to share the profits with his retails workers. Dreiling earns approximately $7700 per hour, while a Dollar General retail worker makes about $7.70. That puts Dreiling at earning 1007 times more than his lowest employees.
Long time Walmart employee, Doug McMillon took on the position of CEO in just February of this year, and is already rolling in cash. McMillon earned his MBA in 1991 and began working for Walmart’s US merchandising sector. In 2006, McMillon became the president of Sam’s Club (which is part of Walmart) and in 2010, he became the president of Walmart. In 2014, he took over the position of CEO from Mike Duke.
Although McMillon worked as a Walmart sales associate for one summer before earning his degree, he isn’t doing much to help Walmart employees, 80 percent of whom require government welfare, despite working full time. McMillon makes 1034 times more than these workers, making Walmart’s wage gap one of the largest in the country.
Starbucks CEO, Howard Shultz had a big role in making the international coffee chain what it is today, and he’s paid lavishly because of it. During a trip to Milan in the late 70s, Shultz was inspired by the Italian cafes that made drinks with espresso and foamed milk, while serving as a staple meeting place for their customers. Motivated, Shultz wanted to turn Starbucks from a retailer offering regular coffee and tea, into an Italian cafe experience.
Although Starbucks resisted at first, the change was hugely successful and eventually earned Shultz the title of CEO. For his work, Shultz makes 1135 times more than your friendly neighborhood barista. This past spring, The Huffington Post reported that Shultz makes in 1.2 hours what a barista makes in an entire year (if they’re given 40 hours a week, which is usually not the case even for full-time partners). When confronted with these facts, Shultz said he wished he could raise his employees’ wages, but it would have unintended consequences by pressuring smaller businesses into also paying their employees over minimum wage, when they can’t afford to.
Don Thompson succeeded Jim Skinner, as the CEO of McDonald’s only two years ago, but he must be doing a great job because his total compensation for 2013 added up to $9.5 million, according to Forbes. Thompson earned his B.S. in electrical engineering from Purdue in 1985, and spent five years working in his field for Northrop Grumman. In 1990, however, he started working as an engineer for McDonald’s headquarters. Eventually, he switched to the operations department and oversaw hundreds and then thousands of stores.
In 2006, Thompson became the president of McDonald’s USA and then in 2012, was promoted to CEO of the entire corporation worldwide. At the beginning of his switch to operations, Thompson spent six months working side-by-side with the fry cooks and cashiers at a singular Chicago restaurant, but he must not have developed too much empathy for their tough situation; at an average of $7.73 per hour, a typical McDonald’s worker earns 1196 times less than their CEO.
1) Abercrombie & Fitch
The reputation of Abercrombie & Fitch has soured in the public eye, after their CEO, Michael Jeffries revealed that his brand purposefully discriminates against larger people. He said, “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes,] and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”
Despite his controversial statement, Jeffries is still raking in a heck of a lot of money for his role in the company. With the Abercrombie & Fitch sales associate at your local mall making a little under $8 an hour, that means Jeffries makes 1640 times more than his lowest employees as CEO.