“I like Bob Iger,” Disney elaborated at the conference. “Let me be very clear: I think he’s a good man. But I think he’s allowing himself to go down a road that is the road everyone is going down. When he got his bonus last year, I did the math, and I figured out that he could have given personally, out of pocket, a 15% raise to everyone who worked at Disneyland, and still walked away with $10 million.”
Disney later expanded on her comments via Twitter in a long thread explaining that if Disney employees at the top level stopped hording money, every one of the company’s 200,000-plus employees could be paid a living wage.
Defending Iger’s salary, a spokesperson for The Walt Disney Company told Vanity Fair in a statement that, “Mr. Iger’s compensation is 90% performance-based and he has delivered exceptional value for shareholders.” According to that statement the company’s market capitalization has risen over the last decade and its stock price have increased to $132 a share from $24 before Iger became CEO in 2005.
The company goes on to say that “Disney has made historic investments to expand the earning potential and upward mobility” of its workers. The statement cites its recent implementation of a starting hourly wage of $15 at Disneyland, which is double the federal minimum wage. The Disney Company also notes a recent commitment of $150 million towards initiatives that provide educational opportunities for hourly workers.
In her Twitter thread, Abigail Disney fired back at the company’s statement:
To brush aside criticism of the low wage you pay workers at the company by saying you pay more than the Federal Minimum Wage and that you provide opportunities for education is a dodge. We all know the Federal Minimum is too low to live on. So why must we, at a company that’s more profitable than it’s ever been, be paying anything so close to least the law allows at all??? Pointing out the incongruity of pay at the top and pay at the bottom provokes a reaction because it so violates of our innate sense of fairness it is impossible not to wince. What on earth would be wrong with shifting some of the profits—the fruits of these employees’ labor— to some folks other than those at the top?
I’m not saying Iger doesn’t deserve a bonus. He most certainly does. He is brilliant and has led the company brilliantly. And yes I am aware that 125K employees got a 1,000 bonus after the tax bill was passed. That was how you spent 125,000M of your windfall. You also spent 3.6 billion on share buy backs. Seriously, are you kidding?? It’s nice to give a bonus to a person pulling down a salary. Everybody loves that. You know what everybody loves more than that? A raise. And if the tax cut makes a bonus possible and that tax cut is permanent doesn’t it stand to reason you could have given a raise instead? And whom did that buy back benefit? Well, you, and lots of people at the high end of the company. And lots of other wealthy people. 85% of stocks are owned by the richest 10% of Americans so congrats, you just deepened wealth inequality.
There are just over 200K employees at Disney. If you took half that 65M bonus, along with half the very generous bonuses everyone else up in the C suites got, I am quite certain you could move significant resources down the line to more evenly share in the great success. I’m sure the math is complicated. And no one is complaining about pay at the middle and upper levels of the company. So let’s say you just raised the salaries of those in the bottom quartile. That would be 50K employees who would get, on average, a $740 bump from Iger’s bonus alone. That alone would be pretty dramatic. Then add in 50% of the rest of the upper tier bonuses. Now we are talking about a DRAMATIC change in living conditions for people who up til now worked full time and yet we’re living at or below the poverty line.
As Cartoon Brew reported a few months ago, the minimum wage that Disney pays in Florida, where the company operates multiple parks and dozens of hotels, is $11 an hour, which is below living wage standards for Florida residents.