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CEO pay site aims to rile

The AFL-CIO is using a new tactic to fire up workers across the country: broadcasting CEOs' compensation packages across the Web.

The AFL-CIO is using a new tactic to fire up underpaid workers across the country: It's broadcasting CEOs' astronomical salary packages across the Web.

The Executive Paywatch site launched yesterday and has received about 4,000 hits an hour, the AFL-CIO said today. The site lets workers compare their salaries, a minimum wage earner's yearly pay, and President Clinton's annual paycheck to the compensation packages of various publicly held companies' CEOs.

The site's goal is to spur employees and investors to take action against the "run-away pay" of America's CEOs. Organizing people on the Net is a growing practice for the AFL-CIO. Even if only one person in a company has a Net connection and a printer, that's enough to infiltrate the workforce and start spreading the word about "unfair" practices and worker's rights, says the AFL-CIO.

Using the compensation figures reported in companies' Securities and Exchange Commission filings, the Executive Paywatch site airs pay packages for CEOs at Apple Computer, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Lucent Technologies, and The Walt Disney Company.

A worker who makes $30,000 a year at Apple Computer would have to work 777 years to match CEO Gilbert Amelio's 1996 compensation of $23,331,185, according to the wage-comparison database.

Amelio's compensation, which includes stock option grants, and bonuses, "could support 777 workers earning your salary," the site says.

In a section dubbed the "Overboard Room" the site argues that CEOs often continue to rake it in while workers are laid off. AT&T took a hard hit here: "Robert E. Allen, AT&T, $10.8 million in options, 40,000 layoffs," the site states.

"People have been numbed by seeing these salaries," Bill Patterson, director of the AFL-CIO Office of Investment said today. "The CEOs think that they can get away with it, and that there is no check on their self-enrichment. We wanted to demystify the CEOs' compensation packages and let allow individual workers and other executives know what they can do about it."

It's no surprise that after visitors browse through the salaries, the AFL-CIO prompts them to organize. The "Fight Back" section list some strategies disgruntled workers and investors can take to access and contact a company's board of directors, flex their shareholder power, or take their case to Congress or the SEC.

"So who is it setting these outrageous salaries for your CEO? Find out about the role that your company's Board of Directors and Compensation Committee play in approving outrageous salaries, learn about strategies for influencing the board and compensation committees, and check out a sample letter to let them know where you stand," the site states.

"The hope is that in work sites all over the country somebody has a Net connection and will print out this information and then hand it around," Patterson said. "People can create their own campaign against their own CEOs instantaneously by starting at their computer and then using postcards, petition, and leaflets to fight back," Patterson said.