My name is Rich Trumka and I represent more than 12.5 million workers as the president of the AFL-CIO, the country’s largest federation of labor unions. Every year the AFL-CIO releases authoritative, user-friendly facts on CEO pay ( at top companies so people can compare their own pay to what those executives make. In 2013, the average CEO made 331 times more than the average worker. This year we’re also focusing on the highest paid CEOs at low-wage companies like Walmart.

I’m answering questions from 3-4 p.m. on why CEO Pay matters to working people. A staff member is helping me type so I can answer your questions quickly, but all responses are 100% my own words. You can follow me on Twitter.

My bio:

My Proof:

Executive PayWatch:

Signing off now, can't wait to see you again. Hope you "Reddit."

Comments: 303 • Responses: 22  • Date: 

entirely1157 karma


entirely16 karma

I stand corrected. Thank you.

Although I'd like to know about cars, planes, chauffeurs, chefs, etc. It's kind of like saying President Obama only earns $400,000. But free housing, private plane, servants, bodyguards (for life) and all that can add up.

RichardTrumka65 karma

If you include legitimate expenses needed to perform my job, such as travel, overnight stays and such, I earn a little less than $300k a year. That computes out to be three and a half times the median and average salary at the AFL-CIO. See if you can find any CEO that will match that ratio

fathairybeast20 karma


RichardTrumka14 karma

It involves four separate thrusts. Political, legislative, organizing and collective bargaining. We're working to improve how we do each of those four things because each of those things are necessary to increase workers' standing in this economy. On top of these four things, we are working diligently with our progressive friends and allies and strategic partners to change the policies that spawned this flat-wage, immobile economy.

ningrim19 karma

How would capping a CEO's pay incentivize a company to pay its workers more?

RichardTrumka8 karma

We haven't advocated "capping" a CEO's pay. But rather than having "pay for pulse" as currently exists, we want there to be a direct relationship between performance and CEO pay. There also should be a relationship between what a CEO makes and what they pay their workers. That's why we're trying to get Dodd-Frank enforced to make companies tell us what they pay workers in Bangladesh, Cancun, Vietnam or the United States so we can gauge whether what they're doing actually is profitable and worthwhile to the company.

TheBlackBrotha18 karma

Holy crap, never thought I'd have the chance to ask you a question. I want to start this off by saying the CWA has been a great advocate for my family. I was one of was one of the only kids in my neighborhood growing up who had a father with blue colored job. Without collective bargaining and union representation, I might not have been able to live in the such a great neighborhood and go to such good schools.

I also live in Virginia where the anti labor sentiment is high.

What do you think can be done in southern states to protect union jobs and expand them to new places, like car manufacturing plants?

EDIT: forgot a word

RichardTrumka15 karma

The short answer is: We need to educate, mobilize and execute. We are rolling out an economic analysis entitled: "Common Sense Economics" that explains the policies that put us in the position the economy is in of having flat and falling wages. It also has policy prescriptions on how to get us out and build a shared that works for all. We will be presenting that to millions of workers in the South. That's a start. But it also means determined organizing efforts, legislative efforts and political efforts. And let me say this, nothing, and I mean nothing can beat good old worker solidarity. Workers standing together to help workers.

emmettjes13 karma

Thanks for doing this. I am a union member of what used to be a well respected trade. Locomotive engineer. I know it's not exactly related to the stated purpose of this AMA, but what can we as the rank and file actually do to effect any meaningful change in public perception. Honestly, I get sick of signing online petitions and other seemingly meaningless gestures. How do we get not just the general public on our side, but show true solidarity when organized labor is so compartmentalized and often self defeating? I can't tell you how many of my fellow union members support right to work and/or speak out against raising the minimum wage/organizing on behalf of low wage workers.

RichardTrumka-3 karma

Emmettjes, you really want to help workers? Contact us, we'll put you through the Common Sense Economics training so you can take a real economic analysis to all your friends and have them help stop the 1% from taking their share. You'll be able to show them how the economy works not for them but against them and how they can change it to work for them. That's a start. Your friends will owe you a tremendous amount of gratitude for enlightening them.

Dajbman2211 karma

What is your opinion on the recent measures to push for a national minimum wage of $15/hr? Is it asking too much, too little, just right, or is it missing the point of the larger issue?

RichardTrumka18 karma

Let's start with some facts. If the min wage kept pace with inflation, it would be $10.64. If it kept pace with productivity, it'd be $18.30. Kept pace with top 1%, it would be $31.45. Also net profit per fortune 500 company per employee was over $41,000 last year. Now the notion that they couldn't take a couple of those thousands of dollars and give it to the employee is absurd. It also totally debunks the notion they can't afford a living wage. The minimum wage is only one aspect. Collective bargaining is needed for all workers so they can get a fair share of the wealthy they produce and remember our economy is 72% driven by consumer spending. The more money workers have to spend the more jobs they create. Any time anybody asks you who the job creators are, tell them workers.

ningrim9 karma

Without legal requirements to do so, what incentives do employers have to bargain collectively?

RichardTrumka6 karma

Smart employers know that workers are assets to be invested in rather than costs to be cut. Collective bargaining allows an employer to solicit the best thinking of its employees for the best and most efficient production methods and fairly share the created wealth with those employees. With collective bargaining you get the workers backs, hands and mind. Smart employers know that employing all three of those is a winning combination.

funkmagnet8 karma

Hi Rich,

What's your take on Thomas Picketty's new book on Capitalism? Under his analysis it would appear that the 20th Century was a blip on the radar in a rather solid history of oligarchy via the free market. Given that wealth inequality is predicted to get worse at an accelerating rate (like your executive pay data shows) what reforms would you encourage to curb this excess?

Also, given the above, it seems that Democrats and Republicans are very often united on trade deals and tax breaks that continually hurt workers for the benefit of the wealthy and corporations. Given shrinking union density and the unlikeliness of a substantial change in labor law any time soon, how can working families organize in large enough numbers to affect real change when it comes to our bottom lines?

RichardTrumka-1 karma

OK funkmagnet, Second part first. We are working with friends and allies and other progressive groups trying to bring them together to fight this very thing. Now remember given the Supreme Court ruling that money is free speech, both Democrats and Republicans frequently slop at the same trough. One of our jobs is to get those progressive groups together, find candidates that identify with workers and will stand with workers. First part of your question: What we've had over the last 30 years is a strong dose of neoliberalism. Neoliberalism being an economy where there's no regulation, there's very little government oversight and austerity policies are imposed on everybody. So that the social safety net is dismantled. You're on your own, I'm on my own, survival of the fittest. those policies resulted in the economy we now have, excellent for the top 1% terrible for the rest of the country. Our job is to join together with our friends, allies, partners to change those policies and to elect people with courage and backbone to stand up after they're elected and change bad trade policies that send jobs overseas or at least reward companies that send those jobs overseas that allow them to pollute the environment and get rewarded for it with tax breaks. Change a tax code that harms manufacturers that produce here instead of one that rewards those overseas. Change a minimum wage that traps people into poverty instead of rewarding them. Big job. Join together with your workers, friends and demand a different economy, guess what, you really do deserve it.

yourjokesexplained8 karma

How do you think other schools programs will react to the unionization of Northwestern football?

RichardTrumka2 karma

Smart ones will embrace it knowing that you can only exploit college athletes so long without having severe adverse effects. And the non-enlightened ones will oppose it because it represents change and they fear change more than the average bear.

kb96steelers7 karma

How do you feel about Oklahoma's decision to ban any laws raising minimum wage or requiring certain employee benefits?

RichardTrumka9 karma

Don't know all the details since it's recently breaking. however I find it extremely ironic that they would prohibit minimum wages laws or laws requiring specific benefits for workers but encourage CEOs that make millions of dollars to take even more. Oh wait, the Supreme Court gave those rich people the right to buy all those politicians to make those laws. Go Steelers! Go Pirates! Go Pens!

fathairybeast7 karma


RichardTrumka7 karma

Hey fathairybeast! Interesting handle. I have met Elizabeth Warren on multiple occasions. Both before she was a Senator, while she was running for Senator and after she was elected. In my opinion she is the prototype of a person we would want to be president of the United States. She has a very well defined set of values and unlike many politicians, she actually sticks by those values and fights to implement them. In short, it don't get no better.

RichardTrumka0 karma

Quite frankly the government isn't interested in keeping Davis-Bacon. For those of you who don't know what Davis-Bacon is it's a law that requires government to pay the prevailing wage in that area so that tax dollars aren't used to drive down workers' wages. We constantly monitor projects to make sure that compliance with prevailing wages and Davis-Bacon are complied with. We work diligently for candidates at all levels that support Davis-Bacon and prevailing wages. And we work against any candidate/politician who thinks tax dollars should be used to lower your wages. And we've been fairly successful at it.

xoxoben3 karma

When talking to people who have bought into anti-union sentiment, what have you found to be the simplest and most effective way to help them realize the benefits of unions and collective bargaining?

RichardTrumka10 karma

A simple story. My four-year-old son many years ago asked me what a union was. He was playing one of those little pedal cars at the time. And I told him to push the pedal car up the steep hill. And he couldn't do it. And then I got him and his two friends and asked all 3 of them to push the car up the hill and they did it. And I said, son, that's what a union does. it allows people to do things together they can't do alone.

yeahyeahyeahyeah3 karma

What's one thing that the average citizen could do to help narrow the disparity in pay between CEOs and regular folks?

RichardTrumka-1 karma

One thing you can do is sign our petition to increase the minimum wage: But in addition to that, if you make investments or hold shares of stock you can make sure you can vote those shares and insist that any companies you have a financial connection to use best practices. And pay their workers fairly. Obviously if they oppose a worker's right to have a voice on the job so those workers can get a fair share of the wealth they produce, you should be leery.

happicide2 karma

Can you talk about how unions can provide hope to workers like Sissy of Darden restaurants, who is profiled in the Paywatch report this year and says she's fearful of the future?

RichardTrumka7 karma

By showing them that millions of workers that were just like Sissy before they had a union improved their lot by gaining a voice on the job. Better pay, better benefits, more say, more dignity, just plain more rights.

NDaveT2 karma

Public perception of unions has been smeared pretty successfully over the last few decades. What are your plans for fixing this perception?

RichardTrumka-1 karma

Again, there is no magic wand to wipe away years of outright lies and mischaracterization of unions. But by getting out front on issues that affect all workers, by showing that our fidelity is the workers and workers only, by doing repositioning and showing that works connects us all to the brain surgeon to the coal miner who produced the electricity who allowed him or her to operate, we're connected by the work that we do. Here's the good news, their pulling the wool over the eyes of workers has pretty much run its course. It's resulted in stagnant wages for 3 or 4 decades, lower benefits, college costs that are out of sight. Homes that are beyond our reach and a society that's less mobile now than it's been since the 20's. Workers are tired and angry and they know they need help. The good news is, they're looking at their fellow workers and unions to give them the power and the ability to get half as good as deal as the boss keeps for himself.

fathairybeast1 karma


RichardTrumka1 karma

hey fairhairybeast, say hi to your fellow local union members from me unless of course that diminishes your ability to rub it in their face. Then don't tell them hi from me. And me and Mike "Da Bears" Ditka would love to do da Saturday Night skit--live of course.

anchorlessrock1 karma

If you could go back in time and meet your 12 year old self, what would you tell him?

RichardTrumka2 karma

Take education serious, son. It'll make things easier later in life.

Ivanthenotbad-1 karma

Unions have been hurting bad the last few decades, and the last few years have been even worse. Scott Walker's war against public sector unions in Wisconsin and the decision of VW workers in Tennessee not to unionize have been major setbacks for collective bargaining. What strategies do you have in mind to reinvigorate union membership and to stop people from supporting ideas that weaken their own economic status?

RichardTrumka10 karma

Let me first talk about the Volkswagen organizing drive. Workers didn't so much reject unionization as they did respond to politicians like the governor, senators and the head of the state house and senate threatening to take away their jobs. Volkswagen will be unionized. A company, VW, really understood the power having employees engaged in every facet of their business using their backs, hand and minds. An outside group raised millions of dollars running newspaper ads, TV and billboard ads to stop a company from getting the help of its own workers. That's fear. Why did they fear the workers having a voice on the job? Because their other rich donors don't want people to have a voice on the job. There will be a union at Volkswagen. And Volkswagen will be better for it. A more efficient, effective forward-looking company. The strategies involved are multi-tiered. In the South, they start educating kids against unions in grade school. They do it in churches, everywhere. So it's up to us to show the positive aspects of unionism in all those same places and more. By the way, we grew by a couple of hundred thousand members last year.

mwhitney-2 karma

Potentially an interesting question for a union man:

Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses, or 1 horse-sized duck?

RichardTrumka3 karma

I think one hundred duck-sized horses because we could tame them and give one to each Senator who actually voted to raise workers' wages. And oooh, a horse-sized duck would be one mean _________.

TomPrince-2 karma

What's your favorite movie?

RichardTrumka3 karma

Jeremiah Johnson. Starring Robert Redford. God I love mountain men. Always wanted to be one. I was born 100 years too late although some dispute that.

SpiffierGoose6-11 karma

wow thanks for answering so many questions man

edit: didin't read post, am stupid and sorry

RichardTrumka4 karma

Hey just got here! Happy to answer any questions you may have (almost).