Disney heir calls on company to 'lead' by combating wage inequality

Abigail Disney is calling out the CEO of her family’s company, Bob Iger, over the size of his paycheck.

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While the Walt Disney Company gave 125,000 employees a $1000 dollar bonus in 2018, the Disney heiress wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that the money was “dwarfed by the $3.6 billion it spent to buy shares back to drive up its stock price and thus enrich its shareholders.”

“Given that about 85 percent of stocks are held by the richest people in the country, this was a significant new investment in wealth inequality,” she said.

Disney, the granddaughter of co-founder Roy Disney, also noted that no one talks about how the company attempted to strike down legislation passed in November of 2018 aimed at lifting the minimum wage paid by certain employers in Anaheim, California to $15 an hour.

Aspiration.com co-founder Joe Sanberg said those who live in communities near Disney know that the happiest place on earth “casts a dark shadow” which is “not only the wrong thing but it’s bad for business.” He added that the problem is there are too many people who are working multiple jobs and still can’t afford life’s basic needs.

“One out of 10 workers at Disneyland have experienced homelessness in the last two years, two out of three workers at Disneyland don’t earn enough to provide three meals a day for their kids, and one out of seven workers at Disneyland have been on food stamps in the past year,” Sanberg said on FOX Business’ “Making Money” Wednesday.

Sanberg said it's because we have an economy based on consumption, and the people who have all the money are the people who “don’t need to buy anything”.

FOX Business' Charles Payne argued, however, that it’s the large Silicon Valley companies and elites that have driven up the cost of living for the average American, not executives like Iger.

“You've got these large Silicon Valley companies, these very rich elites, folks like yourself, you made money in that area, who have driven up the cost of living. That’s not Disney’s fault. It’s the high taxes, the high regulations of these left-leaning cities that make it impossible for people to work and makes it impossible for small people to actually be able to do the things that you did. Why should Disney have to pay for the policies of the cities that they operate in?”

On the other hand, Sanberg said that just because Disney is allowed to pay executives like Iger exorbitant amounts of money doesn’t mean that they should. Iger took in more than $65 million in 2018, which is 1,424 times the pay of the average Disney worker.

“The fact that the Disney CEO earns $65 million a year where two out of three workers at Disneyland can’t afford three meals a day for their family, I don’t think that would be called by anyone anything other than obscene.”

Sanberg points out that while people are benefitting from the free market and our capitalist system, there’s always room for improvement.

“We can have a great country and still need improve it a lot, and we can have a great free market but still need to address its flaws…what matters most is that all workers earn a living wage.”

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While the Disney heiress said that Iger and other executives do deserve bonuses for the success that they create for the Walt Disney Company, she also believes that the rest of the employees “deserve a share of the profits they have helped make happen.”

She suggests that the company needs to reward all of the workers fairly and not turn their backs on the employees who struggle to make ends meet.

“You do not exist merely for the benefit of shareholders and managers. Reward all the people who make you successful, help rebuild the American middle class and respect the dignity of the men and women who work just as hard as you do to make Disney the amazing company it is...I believe that Disney could well lead the way, if its leaders so chose, to a more decent, humane way of doing business,” she wrote.

A spokesperson for The Walt Disney Company telling Fox Business on Friday, “Disney has added more than 70,000 jobs during Mr. Iger’s tenure and has made historic investments to expand the earning potential and upward mobility of our workers, implementing a starting hourly wage of $15 at Disneyland that’s double the federal minimum wage, and committing up to $150 million to establish the nation’s most comprehensive workforce education initiative, which gives hourly employees the opportunity to obtain a high school, college or vocational degree completely free of charge, with a mix of online and on-campus courses that provide maximum flexibility so employees can achieve their career goals. Mr. Iger’s compensation is 90% performance-based and he has delivered exceptional value for the company, its shareholders and employees."

Disney’s market capitalization has grown significantly over the last decade, rising nearly $90 billion in the last month alone to more than $250 billion. It's stock reached $140 a share during Friday's trading session. Disney's stock was at $24 a share when Iger became CEO in 2005.