Today’s Solutions: December 01, 2021

As COVID-19 wreaks havoc on our economic system, some CEOs are stepping up and forgoing their own salaries to protect workers from layoffs and store closures.

Many key players in the airline industry, which has taken a particularly large hit during the outbreak, are sacrificing corporate income for worker well-being. The CEO of Delta, Ed Bastain, announced he will forgo his salary for six months and the company’s board members have elected to do the same. Alaska Air, United, and Allegiant are all implementing similar policies.

Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson is giving up his salary for the rest of the year and has cut pay for senior management in half. Hyatt CEO, Mark Hoplamazian, and board chairman, Tom Pritzker, will forgo their salaries through May as well.

Key nodes of the sharing economy, such as Lyft, Uber, and food delivery services have remained in high demand during the COVID-19 outbreak, but concern for worker health is also high. Lyft co founders John Zimmer and Logan Green are donating their salaries to support drivers and their health. 

As gyms across the country close temporarily to stop the spread of the virus, Life Time CEO Bahram Akradi and the rest of the leadership team have taken an indefinite pay freeze as they shutter their 152 health clubs across North America. The company has also committed to paying its 38,000 health club employees their full pay through the end of March.

While these senior pay cuts are a great start for worker relief, giving up a base salary most definitely does not leave these executives high and dry. Many reap far more income from other related company profits in addition to their salaries. For example, United CEO Oscar Munoz earned a $3.8 million cash bonus on top of his salary last year. Others, like Southwest CEO Gary Kelly, are giving up only a small fraction of income. He is taking only a 10 percent pay cut of his $750,000 salary.

Nevertheless, CEOs and other executives giving up their salaries for the well-being of their workers is an impactful short term solution for saving critical jobs. It is also symbolic of the role of corporate leaders during crises. It is a solution for taking immediate action to protect workers and serves as an incentive for other companies to take swift action to support their employees as well.

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