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US corporate excess under fire as unions go on attack


WASHINGTON, Nov 20 (AFP): US unions, weakened by public apathy and internal splits, are fighting back with an online database that accuses corporate supremos of lining their own pockets while grinding down their employees.
Business leaders are deeply unhappy at the online initiative of the AFL-CIO workers' federation, accusing union bosses of taking a cheap shot when complex issues are at stake.
But the AFL-CIO affiliate behind the site, Working America, says there is nothing cheap about the pay packages on offer to the favoured few while millions of blue-collar Americans fret about losing their jobs and benefits.
"The public should be able to question the outrageous pay of CEOs at a time when jobs are being outsourced every day and their health and safety is endangered every day," Working America deputy director Robert Fox told the news agency.
The site at has information on more than 60,000 US companies, detailing their violations of health and safety legislation, their outsourcing of jobs overseas and the pay deals for chief executives.
The group says it had to fight hard to prise health and safety data out of the government, resorting to the Freedom of Information Act only to find the data was kept on reel-to-reel computer tapes or decades-old IBM cartridges.
Citing a study by compensation consultant Pearl Meyer and Partners for The New York Times, the AFL-CIO says that in 2004, the average CEO of a major company received 9.84 million dollars in total compensation.
For that kind of money, the AFL-CIO said, more than 53,000 uninsured workers could gain health coverage or just under 27,000 working mothers could receive daycare for their children for one year.
The site's new "Jobtracker" function names 71 companies in Michigan, in the US industrial heartland, that have outsourced jobs to cheaper bases and another 1,951 that have violated health and safety regulations in the state.