I have been a huge Disney World fan for several decades. I loved going there, my kids loved going there, and even my wife loved going there (the first 6 or 7 times, but not so much the 13 times after that). Now my kids have babies and I‘ve been looking forward to going to Disney World with them when they’re old enough to appreciate it so I can see the park through their new eyes on their first trip there.
Despite it’s being my best childhood dream, I never got to Disney Land as a kid (there was no Disney World at the time), but I made up for it as an adult. I realized shortly after my first trip to Orlando that Disney World was a place where I could escape Rest of the World both mentally and physically. Stress disappeared and the only objective for each day was to have more fun. I never counted, but I’d estimate that over a span of 30 years I’ve been to Disney World at least 20 times. (Extending a business trip for a day, I finally fulfilled the childhood dream by spending a full day in Disney Land in 1995.)
There are lots of folks who have been there many times more often. It was my treasured escape, until today.
Today Bernie Sanders sent me and scads of his other admirers an e-mail asking us to sign a petition in support of the many Disney employees who have been shamefully treated by the Company. My first whiff of the tarnish on Mickey’s statue came when a neighbor/friend told me that his son had just been fired without warning or cause from his job as a singer in Epcot. That couldn’t be right. That wasn’t Disney, it was Rest of World. I filed that a away in my “there has to be more to it” file, but today Bernie’s light shining on the corporate side of Disney moved that file into the “could well be” drawer.
I can’t tell the story better than Bernie Sanders did, so I pasted an abbreviated version of his call for help here:
The Walt Disney Company is an enormously profitable corporation worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 billion. Last year, it made $9 billion in profits and rewarded its CEO, Bob Iger, with a compensation package worth up to $423 million over a four year period. And as a result of the Trump tax cuts, they were given an additional $1.6 billion.
At the same time — and this is a national disgrace — employees at the company’s theme park in Anaheim, California are paid so poorly that many of them are literally living in a tent city not far from the park.
According to one recent study, nearly 1 in 10 workers employed at the park reported being homeless in the past two years, more than 2 in 3 say they are food insecure, and 3 out of 4 employees say they do not make enough money for their basic needs.
This is not what Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck are supposed to be about. This does not sound like the “happiest place on Earth” to me.
Now, I could be wrong, but I don’t expect you will see the plight of these low-wage workers at Disney discussed tonight on ABC, which is owned by Disney. Nor do I think you will be hearing too much about income and wealth inequality in the mainstream media….
It is long past time that we, as a nation, stop worshipping the corporate greed of Disney and businessmen like Bob Iger, their CEO.
While he may be regarded as a brilliant and successful businessman among his peers in the financial, media, and political elite, the truth is that the way Bob Iger and Disney treat their workers represents much of what is wrong with contemporary capitalism.
This is a company, and a CEO, that accepted an obscene tax cut gifted to them by the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress, publicly promised to anyone who would listen a $1,000 bonus for all of their employees, and then withheld that bonus from some union employees unless they agreed to a contract that gave them a tiny raise to a wage that is still a starvation wage.
This is a company, and a CEO, that in addition to paying their workers here at home extremely low wages, employs many thousands of people in China to manufacture their products sold at Disney stores and online.
This type of greed and ruthless capitalism is not an economic model that we should be embracing. It is not to be celebrated. We can do better, and we must do better…
It’s me again. Speaking only for myself, it pains me deeply to realize and say that Disney must do better to earn the respect and interest I once had in this once great Company. I happen to be a Disney Shareholder, but not one with the wherewithal that the company would take seriously. I can only hope that others, shareholders and/or Disney enthusiasts, who find this uncharacteristic greed disconcerting will sign Bernie’s petition. I did. Maybe the petition will get their attention.
It feels to me as though Mickey has lost his soul.