Income equality is as out of control as ever. The average CEO earns 300 times more than their general employees, up from a 20:1 disparity just 50 years ago. It’s clear that the heads of companies are becoming unfathomably wealthy while the employees who work to earn them these rewards struggle to make ends meet. Fortunately there are a rare few CEOs who seem to understand how lucky they are and share some of their pay/bonuses with their workers.
Truthfully, before I started researching for this piece, I thought I remembered this sort of thing happening more commonly. However, my research kept pointing to the same three names again and again. With that in mind, it’s fair to say that the following three men are anomalies and the vast majority of millionaires hoard their wealth rather than paying it back to their employees.
1. Raymond Burse
Upon accepting the job of president at Kentucky State University this year, Dr. Raymond Burse asked to forfeit $90,000 of his salary so that that money could be reallocated to the university’s lowest paid workers. By shifting this money over, college employees paid minimum wage will now receive $10.25 per hour. “My whole thing is I don’t need to work,” Burse said. “This is not a hobby, but in terms of the people who do the hard work and heavy lifting, they are at the lower pay scale.”
Although Burse is only serving as an interim president, KSU has vowed to maintain the new minimum wage rate moving forward o that their workers can receive a living wage.
2. Yang Yuanqing
In 2012, Yang Yuanqing, the CEO of Lenovo, a gigantic computer company in China, gave up his $3 million bonus so it could be distributed to Lenovo’s lowest paid workers. Split amongst 10,000 employees, the manufacturing workers each got a bonus of the equivalent of 317 U.S. dollars. That may seem like more of a token of appreciation than a life-altering amount, but it’s more than the average employee’s monthly salary.
Yuanqing explained that he did not feel it appropriate to attribute his company’s recent success to his own efforts. “[The] strength of the company’s business performance [belongs] to workers on the production line,” he said. Though a notable gesture, it’s not necessarily a major sacrifice on his behalf; Yuanqing still took home about $14 million in overall earnings.
3. Lord Wolfson
For the past two years, CEO Lord Wolfson has passed along his annual bonus to his workers in full. As the head of Next, the UK’s biggest department store chain, he received about 4 million pounds at the end of 2013. Divided between his 20,000 retail employees, the redistributed bonus equals approximately 1.5% of their annual salary.
Union contractors gave Wolfson mixed reviews for this move. “Working people do not want charity,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the department store union in America. “They need guaranteed wages and benefits… They shouldn’t be forced to hope that their employer will have a momentary impulse – a munificent impulse – to share his massive wealth.”
They make a good point, though Wolfson’s actions are ultimately more admirable than just about any other CEO we’ve come across.