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Union Fuse

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The gap between rich and poor is widening. Unemployment is rising; workers are seeing pay raises trimmed or eliminated; the working poor, especially, have difficulty making ends meet. But perhaps more troubling are the bloated salaries of America's top executives.

In his book, Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich, Kevin Phillips noted that 25 years ago top executives were satisfied with earning around 40 times their average worker's pay. Now, they are sometimes getting more than 200 times as much as the average worker. And this doesn't count all the obnoxious perks--the former Tyco executive's umbrella stand costing thousands of dollars comes to mind--that have been so much in the news of late.

We can hope the disclosures of executive excess that are an outgrowth of corporate scandals regarding Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, et al, will reverse this trend. We can hope as well that it might remind people why it is in their interest to make common cause with their co-workers.

Richard Bruner, whose piece "Coming Together" begins on page 16, notes how difficult it is for unions to win influence. But if workers are sufficiently disturbed by outrageous executive compensation, that may change.

The Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees, for example, expressed its indignation at plans by the board of Jones Apparel Group to give 1.5 million shares of stock to CEO Peter A. Boneparth. Union members helped persuade company shareholders that "enough is enough," and the idea was abandoned.

Enough is enough. Indeed.

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