Over the past decade, CEOs in the United States received an annual average pay increase of $340,000; by last year, the annual average remuneration for CEOs came to $14.8 million. During the same period, the annual average wage increase for production and nonsupervisory workers in the U.S. was $836; in 2019, they earned $41,442, on average.
Unavoidably amplifying the contrast in pay is a pandemic that has pitched millions out of their jobs, creating the highest unemployment rate in the country since the Great Depression and sweeping almost 1.4 million New Jerseyans into its grasp. This brings us to the latest data from Executive Paywatch, a creation of the AFL-CIO unions. On the release of a report on CEO pay Wednesday, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler noted that many CEOs took pay cuts in solidarity with workers furloughed because of the coronavirus pandemic. But, she said, “Base salary makes up less than 8% of total compensation for CEOs of S&P 500 companies. Most CEO pay is in equity awards. The real story in executive compensation was that companies ramped up their equity awards to senior executives at the beginning of this year.”
The latest Paywatch report sifts through the salaries of CEOs in the S&P 500, dozens from New Jersey among them. At the top of the Garden State CEO salary mountain, it lists Michael O’Sullivan of Burlington Stores, with pay in 2020 of $31,056,597. The rest of the top five on the list are Kenneth Frazier, Merck and Co. ($27,648,475 in 2019); Elizabeth Barrett, UroGen Pharma ($25,900,823 in 2019); Alex Gorky, Johnson & Johnson ($25,365,777 in 2019) and Juan Alaix of Zoetis ($21,145,419 in 2019). Most of their pay comes in stock options and awards, with base salaries ranging from $475,000 for O’Sullivan to $1,659,482 for Frazier.