Last week, United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard reminded In These Times readers of the prophetic call of faith leaders to lift up the needs of the poor in our communities and advocate for an economy that deconstructs inequality and values the humanity in all those who work. Gerard lauded Pope Francis' commitment to living simply while disciplining the "Bishop of Bling" (German Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst who recently approved spending an estimated $42 million on remodeling his diocesan center and residence, including $22,000 for a bathtub.).
Gerard connected Pope Francis' leadership to the leadership of any American corporation, save the massive compensation packages associated with that leadership:
Pope Francis is beloved for his asceticism. He lives in Spartan rooms and drives a 1984 Renault. He runs an organization as big as any American corporation. Yet he doesn’t demand millions in pay and perks.
American CEOs and boards of directors should take note. The income inequality they’ve fostered with outsized CEO pay packages and paltry wages for workers is creating an American royal class served by serfs. Instead of fixing that problem as Pope Francis is, they’re trying to conceal it.
Corporate boards should behave more like Pope Francis, banishing imperial CEOs and rejecting royal pay package demands. If they did, they wouldn’t have to fear embarrassment when those pay ratio numbers get released.
At Interfaith Worker Justice, we echo calls for corporations to honor their workers with fair pay for honest work. Corporate CEOs should be compensated fairly for their contributions to the organization, but so should all workers. Excessive compensation packages in the contrast to immorally (and often unlivable) low wages paid to the majority of workers on the front lines of day-to-day operations is an injustice directly in opposition of Catholic Social Teaching, and religious scripture in many of the world's religions.