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CEO pay egregiously high amid use of AI

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Aug. 7, 2023) — As CEOs rush to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) in their businesses in ways that can hurt workers and drive inequality, executive pay remains unacceptably high, according to this year’s AFL-CIO Executive Paywatch website In 2022, the average CEO-to-worker-pay ratio of companies in the S&P 500 Index was 272-to-1.

“The choice about how we use AI is before us right now. Will AI be used to enrich corporate CEOs and tech billionaires? Or will the productivity gains of AI be shared with working people to make our jobs easier and raise living standards?” said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond during a press conference for the website’s release. “Performers are being asked to sign away the rights to their own likeness as a condition of employment so that the studios can add to their profits by digitally creating new content without them. Writers not writing. Actors not acting. And their fight is our fight.”

Average S&P 500 Index CEO compensation was $16.7 million in 2022—the second-highest level of executive pay in history—and data shows that over the past decade, CEO pay increased by $5 million. Assuming a 45-year career, S&P 500 Index company employees would need to work more than five lifetimes to make what the average CEO receives in just one year.

The advent of AI and its impact on society has become a growing inflection point for working people as CEOs implement new technologies to monitor, evaluate, control and even fire workers. The report spotlights how the top 10 highest-paid CEOs in the Executive Paywatch database are incorporating AI into their business models.

These executives each made well over $100 million and had some of the starkest CEO-to-worker pay ratios in 2022, with Live Nation Entertainment having the highest pay ratio in the S&P 500 Index of 5,414-to-1. Despite conventional wisdom that CEOs create jobs and reinvest profits to help grow the economy, the report highlights how AI is being adopted in ways that can undermine workers and increase inequality.

SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland also discussed AI as a critical issue in contract negotiations for thousands of the union’s members who are currently on strike for better wages, stronger working conditions and a more secure future in their profession.

During his remarks, Crabtree-Ireland discussed the enormous disparities in pay between Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) executives and workers, and emphasized that bargaining will be instructive for shaping worker protections around AI not only in the entertainment industry but across various sectors of the economy. He stressed that the voices of workers will be essential to harnessing the power of AI to improve work rather than undermine job security, wages and privacy.

“Our members are rightly concerned about these big companies taking and owning their image, their likeness…replacing them as workers and abusing their human rights,” said Crabtree-Ireland during the conference. “If somebody else can control your image and likeness and they can make you do things you never even know about, much less agreed to, that’s unacceptable. And we’re holding the line on that.”

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