AFL-CIO’s “Executive Paywatch” Presents Skewed Montana Data

The Montana AFL-CIO is once again trumpeting highly questionable numbers from the national AFL-CIO’s “Executive Paywatch” website claiming that Montana CEO’s are paid 40 times the average annual salary of a Montana worker.

According to Executive Paywatch, the average Montana CEO made $1,475,894 in 2013, while the average Montana worker made just $36,534. The numbers are similar to Executive Paywatch’s 2012 findings for Montana, as reported by Media Trackers.

While the AFL-CIO uses this information as proof of vast unfairness in Montana’s economy, a Media Trackers analysis shows that, once again, the numbers are based so few data points that it makes the 40:1 pay ratio claim highly dubious.

The “average” pay for Montana CEO’s in 2014 is based on the salary of just 5 Montana CEO’s: Michael McMullen of Stillwater Mining Co., Michael Blodnick of Glacier Bancorp., Daniel Goldberger of Bacterin International, First Interstate Bancsystem, and John C. Lawrence of United States Antimony Corp.

Executive Paywatch only uses companies listed on the S&P 500 or Russell 3000 indexes to calculate CEO pay averages. Montana has no companies listed on the S&P 500, and just the five listed on the Russell 3000. The Russell 3000 also only includes companies that are publicly traded.

The pay of the five CEO’s also varied widely. McMullen of Stillwater Mining made just over $3.5 million in 2013, while Lawrence of U.S. Antimony made $166,000.

The AFL-CIO’s claims also made no differentiation between the average pay in different industries. For example, while McMullen made $3.5 million in 2013, the average miner in Montana made $83,873 in 2013 according the National Mining Association, which is about 128 percent more than the $36,534 figure in 2014 for all workers.

Even if Executive Paywatch does create an accurate picture of the CEO/employee pay disparity in Montana, it would actually show that Montana is a state with one of the lowest disparities. Only Alaska (37:1) and North Dakota (39:1) have a smaller pay disparity according Executive Paywatch’s numbers. The AFL-CIO claims that the national ratio is 373:1.

According the AFL-CIO’s metrics of success, Montana’s Executive Paywatch numbers actually showed a significant improvement from 2012. In 2012, Paywatch claimed that the CEO/worker pay disparity was 50:1, with Montana CEO pay at nearly $1.6 million and the average worker making $35,736.

Media Trackers Montana is a conservative non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to promoting accountability in the media and government. Read more at Follow Media Trackers on Twitter @mediatrackersmt.

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