Here’s an idea I think could really gain some traction in America, a country reflexively opposed to unionism and worker rights: Linking CEO pay to the minimum wage. Hamilton Nolan wrote a heart felt piece in Gawker yesterday hammering Caterpillar for slashing wages and busting unions while raking in massive profits and raising executive pay. Nolan argues that by linking executive pay to the minimum wage, you really would have a situation where CEO’s would think twice about slashing wages and abusing their work force. With executive pay linked to the minimum wage you really would create an environment where a rising tide lifts all boats:
Pick a maximum multiple that a CEO can make. 20 times that of an average worker? 50 times? 100 times? The number is less important than the principle. Once corporate executives are tied to their workers in pay, the low man needs to get a raise in order for the high man to get a raise. The economic interest of the executive class is aligned with that of the working class.
Unions are largely political lobbying organizations already. Put that muscle to good use. A law could be written strongly enough to avoid easy loopholes. Think a law like this is a liberal pipe dream? Why? Look at our economy. Look at our unemployment figures. Look at the widening wealth gap. And look at this company, Caterpillar, brashly ordering hardworking Americans to accept less while paying executives more. There are a million more people whose interests align with unions and workers than there are people whose interests align with rich executives. A small step towards wage sanity would not be remarkable. What’s remarkable is how much inequality we’ve conditioned ourselves to tolerate.
Want to raise the minimum wage? Tie it to the maximum wage, and watch it fly.
It’s hard to see how anyone could argue against this simple principle. Die hard libertarians would claim it was excessive intervention in the hallowed market, but given their propensity to get literally everything wrong all the time, their arguments could be dismantled pretty easily. Rich people would still be rich, but the less well off would have a guarantee that they’d see a share of increased prosperity. It would also work as a motivator to inspire productivity if everyone knew for a fact that their own labor would result in a greater payoff.
I’d be interested to see how Americans would react to this proposal, so if you’re reading this (or Nolan’s piece), please pass it on to get a bit of a debate going. Stranger things have happened, and you never know – the idea might just catch on.