Abigail Disney, an heir to the Disney empire, on Tuesday expanded her efforts to hold the company’s leaders accountable for pay inequality at the entertainment giant.
“It is time to call out the men and women who lead us and to draw a line in the sand about how low we are prepared to let hard-working people sink while top management takes home ever-more-outrageous sums of money,” Disney wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post. “It is unreasonable to expect corporate boards to act as a check on this trend; they are almost universally made up of CEOs, former CEOs and people who long to be CEOs.”
The activist and documentary filmmaker’s opinion piece echoed a Twitter thread she created over the weekend that called out Disney CEO Bob Iger’s $65.6 million in compensation last year, which a study by research firm Equilar said is 1,424 times the median pay of a Disney employee.
“To put that gap in context, in 1978, the average CEO made about 30 times a typical worker’s salary,” Abigail Disney wrote Tuesday. “Since 1978, CEO pay has grown by 937 percent, while the pay of an average worker grew just 11.2 percent.”
Those tweets came a week after she criticized Iger and the company at a conference hosted by Fast Company magazine, where she said disproportionate executive compensation has “had a corrosive effect on society.”
She noted Tuesday that the Walt Disney Co. has pushed back against her claims of pay inequality by noting it pays more than the $7.25 federal minimum wage. But that argument, she said, does not take into account the different locations’ costs of living, nor does it recognize the company worked behind the scenes to defeat a ballot initiative in Anaheim, California, home of Disneyland, to lift the minimum wage to $15. The initiative passed in November.
“Besides, at the pay levels we are talking about, an executive giving up half his bonus has zero effect on his quality of life,” Abigail Disney wrote. “For the people at the bottom, it could mean a ticket out of poverty or debt. It could offer access to decent health care or an education for a child.”
Disney is the granddaughter of Roy Disney, who co-founded the company with brother Walt. She has been outspoken on the issue of income inequality, recently telling The Cut about how her worldview was shaped partly by watching money’s influence on her parents when Disney’s stock price skyrocketed in the 1980s. She said she has donated the majority of her inheritance over the years.
“Here is my suggestion to the Walt Disney Co. leadership. Lead. If any of this rings any moral bells for you, know that you are uniquely situated to model a different way of doing business,” she wrote Tuesday.
She added: “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.”
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