Disney Heir Calls on Execs to Share Half of Bonuses With Lowest Paid Workers

She challenges the company to be a model for a more ethical way of doing business.


(MateusandOlivia / Shutterstock.com)

Disneyland is known as the Happiest Place on Earth, and with dozens of different parks spread across the world, there is a lot of happiness to spread around. Over 52 million people attend the Disney World resort complex in Orlando, Florida every year, and that equals a huge number of smiles on the faces of gleeful children and adults.

Besides the world-famous resorts, the Disney company is also a media conglomerate that owns the Walt Disney Studios, media networks, a music group, a theatrical group, Disney publishing, the Disney retail chain, and streaming and distribution services.

All in all more than 200,000 employees work at the Disney empire, many of them in low paying positions close to minimum wage. At the same time, just as in most other companies, Disney’s upper management is set to receive huge million-dollar bonuses on top of their salaries.

Abigail Disney – the granddaughter of the company’s co-founder Roy Oliver Disney (Walt Disney’s brother) – has now spoken up against this astonishing wage difference and called on The Walt Disney Company and other firms alike to do more to support American working families and achieve greater income equality.

In a recent Washington Post op-ed, the 59-year-old film-maker and philanthropist made the case for Disney executives to give up half of their bonuses, which would then be given to the company’s lowest-earning employees.

"If management wants to improve life for just the bottom 10 percent of its workers,” she writes. “Disney could probably set aside just half of its executive bonus pool, and it would likely have twice as much as it would need to give that bottom decile a $2,000 bonus.”

“Besides, at the pay levels we are talking about, an executive giving up half his bonus has zero effect on his quality of life. 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."

While the Walt Disney Company does pay its workers more than minimum wage, many employees still can’t make ends meet since the Disney resorts are usually located in fairly pricy areas.

For generations of people around the world, the name Disney is synonymous with childhood memories, stories of morality, strength, friendship, and love. Abigail Disney said that as a Disney, she felt she needed to speak up about her grandfather’s company “to put those moral undertones and all that love to constructive use. Because this is a moral issue.”

“And it is so much bigger than just Disney. For too long the business community has brushed aside moral considerations as beneath them—naive, childlike, irrelevant. For too long it has been anathema in the business world to be tagged with the label of ‘do-gooder.’,” she said.

The Disney company is already fairly progressive in the diversity of its products and the work environment it provides for its employees in terms of inclusion and acceptance.

The firm has made great strides in recent years to be more inclusive of minorities and even holds special days or events at its theme parks. Wage fairness is not too much of a leap for this forward-looking company.

If the factory of dreams decides to listen to one of its most outspoken heirs, it is in the unique position to truly fulfill its promise of being the happiest place on earth.

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