Pay inequity between workers and CEOs grew in 2020 to an average 299-to-1 pay ratio, according to the AFL-CIO Executive Paywatch report released Wednesday.
The Executive Paywatch searchable online database of CEO pay found that CEOs of S&P 500 companies averaged $15.5 million in total compensation in 2020, an average increase of more than $700,000 over the previous year.
The average CEO-to-worker pay ratio of those companies was 264-to-1 in 2019.
The average CEO pay increased 5% and the disclosed median employee's pay at the same companies increased by 1%, according to Executive Paywatch.
On a call with reporters, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler dismissed the executive salary reductions announced during the COVID-19 crisis as lip service.
"Some companies furloughed working people, then tried to make a big deal about cutting CEO's base salaries. But in reality, CEOs enjoyed big increases in their equity compensation. While CEO base salaries decreased slightly, the average S&P 500 company CEO's stock-based pay increased by over $1 million. And that doesn't even factor in the dramatic rise in the stock market we saw in the second half of the year," Ms. Shuler said. Many of those stock grants are worth even more today, she added.
According to the Institute for Policy Studies, some S&P 500 companies increased CEO pay last year, including through retention awards as their stock prices fell or changes to incentive metrics to make up for the impact of COVID-19.