Kathleen Sutcliffe by Kathleen Sutcliffe, Campaign Manager, Earthjustice.

Fire a couple thousand people, block meaningful chemical safety reform, collect heaps of cash. It’s all part of the job for some chemical company CEOs, as uncovered in a September report by the Institute for Policy Studies that contrasted executive compensations with worker layoffs.

According to the study, CEO Pay and the Great Recession, CEOs who cut the most workers from their payrolls took home 42 percent more compensation than the year’s chief executive pay average for S&P 500 companies. For anyone who’s been laid off in recent years, this news is bound to be pretty depressing.


And when you look at which companies are rewarding CEOs while laying off workers, an interesting pattern emerges.

Named among the top 50 Recession Layoff Leaders are five members of the American Chemistry Council — the industry lobbying group fighting against true chemical policy reform. CEOs of these companies (Dow, 3M, Merck, Eli Lilly, Eastman Kodak) each took home skywards of $10 million last year while simultaneously announcing tens of thousands of layoffs.

The only other industry as well represented on the list is the already maligned financial sector—and many of those CEOs had the good sense to scale back their pay substantially. It looks like American chemical companies might be the stealth bad guys in this recession layoff bonanza.

Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Merck CEO Richard Clark took home nearly $12 million last year while announcing the layoffs of 8,000 workers
  • Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris took home more than $15.6 million last year while announcing the layoffs of 7,500 workers
  • Eli Lilly CEO John Lechleiter took home $16.3 million last year while announcing the layoffs of 5,500 workers
  • Eastman Kodak CEO Antonio Perez took home more than $10 million last year while announcing the layoffs of 4,500 workers
  • 3M CEO George Buckley took home nearly $14 million last year while announcing the layoffs of 3,700 workers

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) likes to scare lawmakers away from enacting tough chemical reforms by threatening to cut jobs. Here’s an article showcasing ACC’s disdain for recent Congressional efforts to reform our failing law, the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. In recent months, the group spent an estimated $5.4 million in California, trying to block the state’s proposed ban of the hormone disrupting chemical BPA. What the chemical industry neglects to say is how many millions of dollars they’ll continue to pay the same CEOs who are stalling progress, fighting the inevitable, and, in doing so, putting American families at risk.