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Disney Heiress Asks “Is There Such A Thing As Too Much?”

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In a slowing brewing debate about the nature of American capitalism, the heiress of Disney is now chiming in--from the sidelines--to address CEO salaries and employee benefits at a time when income equality is starting to meet with serious blowback. The latest attack on America’s biggest companies and CEOs who get outsized salaries comes from Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Roy Disney, the co-founder of the Walt Disney Company.

Speaking before Congress, the Disney heiress--an American philanthropist and filmmaker--suggested everyone jump on the learning curve here and better understand capitalism and how we practice it.

Disney brought up the huge pay gap between CEOs and workers, calling for a rethink of the system. Of course, the $65 million paid in 2018 to Disney's CEO Bob Iger compared to what an average worker makes comes to mind.

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. According to a recent Equilar study, Iger's pay was 1,424 times that of the median Disney employee.

“I like Bob Iger,” Disney told a panel held by business magazine Fast Company in April. “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.”

Iger is being rewarded for a number of things. When he became CEO in 2005, the company’s stock was trading at $24. Today it’s over $130 a share. Market cap has increased $47 billion in the past six weeks alone.  More than 70,000 jobs have been added to the company since Iger become CEO and the end of the fiscal year 2018.

But does he really deserve a $65-million salary?

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In her testimony, Disney noted: “I do not speak for my family but only for myself. I have no role at the company, nor do I want one. I hold no personal animus toward Bob Iger nor to anyone else at the Walt Disney Company. I have repeatedly insisted, in fact, that he and the rest of management at Disney are brilliant and that performance-based compensation for them is totally appropriate.”

“The questions I am raising are simply ‘Is there such a thing as too much?’ ‘Does what a CEO gets paid have any relationship to how much his janitors and wait staff and hotel workers are paid?’ And, ‘Do the people who spend a lifetime at the lowest end of the wage spectrum deserve what they get, or does every person who works full-time deserve a living wage?’”

Disney criticized corporate executives for what she called their "addiction" to money and the "extreme unfairness" of paying their workers less than a living wage.

“We have begun to cannibalize the very people that make this economy thrive. After all, no middle class, no Disney,” Disney told the House Financial Services Committee.

She also proposed a few changes to make life easier for Disney workers:

  1. renovating empty housing near Disney parks for employees to reduce travel time and cost
  2. restoring stock options for all employees
  3. Giving leftover food to employees (currently, it’s simply tossed)
  4. Free passes for employees and their families (an old tradition that no longer exists).

But beyond employees, her proposal also includes changes to executive benefits, including cutting bonuses in half and used the savings to help employees pay for things such as medicine, childcare, and emergencies.

Earlier this month, the company laid off several dozen workers at its film studios in cuts across Walt Disney studios and the 20th Century Fox film unit, which was absorbed by Disney two months ago in a $71.3-billion deal.

About two dozen executives, mostly high-level,  received termination notices with handsome severance packages, according to the Los Angeles Times. The layoffs are expected to continue throughout the year, with another 4,000 employees expected to lose their jobs.

By Fred Dunkley for Safehaaven.com

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