In 2021, the average CEO made 254 times as much money as the average worker. That's, like, a lot of money — way more than any one person truly ~needs~ in order to live a fulfilling life.
So, when 35-year-old business owner Madeline Pendleton shared with TikTok how she pays employees and herself the same universal wage at her LA-based shop, Tunnel Vision, it got a lot of people's attention.
In the video, Madeline says, "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 even gets into the math and shows how this system works in practice. "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."
"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."
Her video got a ton of reactions, with some people enthusiastically supporting Madeline's business model.
And others had a lot of questions about things like different job functions being valued differently and how this system works in terms of motivation.
I had to learn more, so I reached out to Madeline via email. She shared with me that she's been running her business for 10 years, but it wasn't always set up this way. "I was always focused on trying to pay equitably, but wasn't always sure what the best method was to achieve that goal."
"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."
She said the feedback from employees has been really positive. "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."
And in response to critics who think a universal wage is demotivating, Madeline said, "To us, traditional workplaces feel demotivating and far from equitable. One of our employees says she is proud to share how our company wages work with anyone who will listen. She says people need to know this is possible."
"Everyone at the company has said that they work harder here than they would in another workplace, for sure. One of our employees, Babylungs, is a musician who has a song where the chorus says, 'Quit your job and drop out of school.' They said they'd never work a regular job, but they love working here. They feel appreciated and seen."