How Do Senate vs. Detroit Worker Wages Compare on an Hourly Basis?

BY busadmin  December 25, 2008 at 3:36 PM EDT

General Motors; AP photo

Question/Comment: Hi Paul! I’ve heard certain senators opining about our ‘hourly’ wage earners here in Detroit. I’ve also heard senators earn tiptop health & retirement bennies.
How do Senate vs ‘Detroit worker’ wages compare, converted to an hourly basis? Thanks, & keep up the good work… You I can understand!

Paul Solman: I love this question, Tom (though maybe your compliment disposes me favorably). A woman accosted me at the opera the other night and begged me to tell the UAW side of the story. Without taking a position on the issue (I work for the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, need I remind you?), let me offer a few facts, egged on by your e-mail:

Simple answer: U.S. senators make roughly $200,000 a year, with generous benefits, and rather attractive job options should the gig end. As for laid-off UAW workers, here’s an article from the Detroit News:

“Once the symbol of blue-collar prosperity, Michigan autoworkers are going bankrupt in alarming numbers as vehicle production declines and overtime pay dwindles. The United Auto Workers’ legal department has handled the bankruptcies of nearly 10,000 of its members, retirees and their families in Michigan since 2002, according to Detroit News research of court records.”

The date of that article? September – THREE YEARS AGO.

Bonus answer: GM CEO Rick Waggoner made $14 million in 2007. According to economist Dean Baker, whose blog can be found on the American Prospect website to which we’ve linked on the lower right, “the top executives at Toyota, Honda, and other successful companies get paid in the neighborhood of $1-2 million a year. Unlike their U.S. counterparts, they don’t get paychecks in the tens of millions of dollars even in the best years.”