With inflation at almost a 40-year high, the topic of prices and wages is something everyone is at least thinking about. Hard not to.
Recently 35-year-old Madeline Pendleton took to TikTok to share how she and her employees receive the same universal wage, a feat that is wildly different from how much more most CEOs make than other members of their company.
The LA-based store, Tunnel Vision, touts itself as “clothes for deadbeat, lowlife, weirdos”.
In the video, Madeline explains, “I own a business, and everybody there, including myself, we all earn the same pay. And this could definitely be done at absolutely any company without the company even having to spend more money. It’s just income redistribution, really.”
“It just means that instead of your boss making $24 million a year, which is the average for the top 350 firms in the US to pay their CEO in 2020 (while you make like $30k or whatever for work in the same business), you take everybody’s salary in the whole place, then you average them out amongst the number of workers you have. Boom, company has a universal wage. I do this at my business and I’ll show you how it works.”
She then gets into the math of it all and shows how the store works its payroll.
“We have 10 full-time employees, including me, and we just got our quarterly raises. So we all make around $73,000 a year. That means our company’s annual payroll expenses for our full-time employees is $730,000.”
“Let’s say I wanted to be a total asshole and I wanted to pay everyone at my company minimum wage except for me. Where I live in Los Angeles, our minimum wage is currently $15 an hour, but July 1, it goes up to $15.96 an hour. Let’s say I’m super benevolent, actually, and I round that up to a cool $16 an hour for all of my ‘lowly’ employees. That would mean their annual salaries would be $33,280 a year each. So there’s nine of them, meaning that all of those salaries would make up a total of $299,520.”
“Now remember, our annual payroll costs at the company are $730,000 a year just for the full-time workers. We have three part-time workers too, but I’m trying to keep the math simple.
“This means that if I paid all of them minimum wage (well, four cents above minimum wage, remember I’m being ‘nice’), even at my small business with just 13 employees, my annual salary would be $430,000. It’s ridiculous. This is what those CEOs are doing so they can make that $24 million a year while you guys make like $30k or whatever, and your company’s got a lot more revenue than my little dinky business does.”
People were generally enthusiastic, one person writing, “please run for president, I beg”. Others, however, pointed out that it was difficult to swallow “when we start talking education and experience levels.” Madeline wrote back that, “If your job is necessary, it’s just as valuable.”
Madeline also spoke to Buzzfeed. She told them, “I was always focused on trying to pay equitably, but wasn’t always sure what the best method was to achieve that goal.”
“In the beginning, I tried different models of what I thought was equitable pay…from each according to their ability to each according to their need.” She also tried a method that “ended up kind of replicating ‘girlboss’ culture and felt a bit like an MLM.”
“Finally, in 2020, I settled on equal take-home pay across the board for days worked. It was easier for people to understand, and we combined it with giving people paid time off whenever they need — not just for vacations, but also for things like mental health days and physical health days. Our company culture is one that rewards rest, and we focus more on getting the work done than on putting in the hours.”
“We do profit sharing too, when it’s available, though we aim to just break even at the end of the year. Last year, we kind of went viral when we used the profit to buy employees new cars. This year, we’re working on getting everyone into owning their own home. We have an informal workplace democracy too, so we decide together what to do with our money in the workplace. It’s more focused on consensus and conversation than a simple ‘yes or no’ vote, and it seems to work pretty well.”
“Everyone loves it. They feel like everything is extremely fair, and it makes us feel more like a community because we know we’re working not just for ourselves, but also to help each other out.”