Dan Price, the founder of credit card processor Gravity Payments, has earned kudos such as "entrepreneur of the year." Now, he may become known as one of the most generous -- or perhaps idealistic -- employers in America.
That's because Price has told his company's workers that they would all be getting raises over the next three years, bringing the minimum salary of every employee to $70,000, The New York Times reports. That includes even the lowest-paid customer-service reps and clerks.
While large publicly traded companies such as Walmart (WMT) are raising hourly rates for low-paid workers amid a larger discussion about what constitutes a living wage, these have largely been incremental increases of about $1 an hour or a little more. Labor activists at Fight for $15 are pushing for a $15 minimum wage, which is about $31,200 in gross annual income.
At Gravity Payments, the boost represents a 46 percent jump from the current average annual salary of $48,000. Price told The Times he'll cut his own salary of almost $1 million to $70,000 to help pay for the generous raises.
"The market rate for me as a C.E.O. compared to a regular person is ridiculous, it's absurd," Price told the publication.
CEOs of S&P 500 companies made 354 times the average wages of U.S. workers in 2012, according to the AFL-CIO. While income for America's top earners has surged in recent years -- including for many CEOs -- average workers are struggling with stagnant pay increases.
Price told The Times that he was inspired after reading an academic article on happiness, which found that increases in income for people who earn less than $70,000 can make a big impact.
Gravity Payments didn't immediately return a request for comment.
Out of the private company's 120 employees, about 70 will see raises, with 30 eventually doubling their annual salaries. It will use 70 percent to 75 percent of its expected $2.2 million in 2015 profit to help pay for the wages, which will be phased in over the next three years
One employee, Hayley Vogt, told The Times she was "completely blown away" by the offer. On her $45,000 annual salary she had been worried about how to pay for rent increases and some medical bills.
"Everyone is talking about this $15 minimum wage in Seattle," she said. "And it's nice to work someplace where someone is actually doing something about it and not just talking about it."