Disney has responded to comments made by Abigail Disney, granddaughter of Disney co-founder Roy O. Disney, condemning what she sees as gross imbalances in the company’s salary practices. In a lengthy series of tweets made on Sunday, Ms. Disney said “by any objective measure a pay ratio over a thousand is insane,” adding that such an imbalance has a “corrosive effect on society.” She began her remarks referencing Disney CEO Bob Iger, who made $65.6 million last year, or 1,424 times that of the median Mouse House employee.
In a statement given to the New York Times, the company defended it salary practices, aggressively disputing Ms. Disney’s characterizations.
“Disney 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,” the statement said, adding that the company had committed up to $150 million for an education initiative that gives hourly employees the opportunity to obtain a college or vocational degree at no cost.
According to the Times, Disney stated that 90 percent of Iger’s compensation was based on financial performance. It also noted that Iger’s tenure at the company had led Disney’s stock price to rise to $133 a share from $24 — “which directly benefits the literally thousands of employees who hold our stock.”
Ms. Disney followed up her Twitter comments with an op-ed for The Washington Post, under the headline “It’s time to call out my family’s company — and anyone else rich off their workers’ backs.” She began by reiterating what she made clear on Twitter, including that she “spoke only for [herself] and not for [her] family.”
In response to the company’s assertion that it pays its workers double the federal minimum wage, she wrote: “[Disney’s argument] also fails to recognize that the company worked quietly to try to defeat a ballot initiative to lift the minimum wage paid by certain employers to $15 an hour in Anaheim, Calif[ornia].”
As for why she is speaking out publicly against the company, she said she believes the brand “occupies a special place in the economic landscape. Its profits are powered by emotion and sentiment and, yes, something as fundamental as the difference between right and wrong.” It would appear she is motivated by a righteous belief in what her family’s company stands for, or purports to.
She continued: “I believe that Disney could well lead the way, if its leaders so chose, to a more decent, humane way of doing business.”
IndieWire has reached out to the Walt Disney Company for comment on this story.