Abigail Disney is ready to see change among the structural obstacles that everyday workers face, starting with the company that bears her family name.
After calling Disney CEO Bob Iger’s 2018 salary of $65 million “insane” on a panel Thursday, the granddaughter of company co-founder Roy Disney fired off a series of tweets about how the company could better allocate its money and pay every worker a “living wage.”
Disney said her own calculations show that Iger’s $65.6 million in total compensation in 2018 was so vast that he could have awarded Disneyland employees an across-the-board 15 percent pay bump and still have pocketed over $10 million himself.
A study by the research firm Equilar, which tracks compensation, further shows the vastness of the gap between Iger’s pay and that of the company’s employees: Iger made 1,424 times the amount of a median Disney employee last year, one of the biggest gaps among the 100 companies surveyed.
Disney, who is an Emmy award-winning filmmaker and activist, has been outspoken on the topic of income inequality in the past as a member of Patriotic Millionaires, which calls for higher taxes on the wealthy. On Thursday, she specifically pointed out that three-quarters of Disneyland employees not being able to afford basic living expenses, such as medicine, is unacceptable.
“So there’s a point at which there’s just too much going around the top of the system into this class of people who — I’m sorry if this is radical — have too much money,” she said.
Both in her tweets and speaking Thursday at the event held by Fast Company magazine, Disney emphasized that Iger was a “good man” who performed well at Disney and deserved a bonus, but also said that such huge pay deals “had a corrosive effect on society."
The Walt Disney Company responded to her comments and tweets in a statement:
“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, and committing up to $150m for a groundbreaking education initiative that gives our hourly employees the opportunity to obtain a college or vocational degree completely free of charge.”
The company also said the increase in Iger’s 2018 pay was caused by share grants connected with Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox.
Disney, 52, had already expressed her thoughts on the company paying two times the federal minimum wage.
"We all know the federal minimum is too low to live on,” she said. “So why must we, at a company that’s more profitable than it’s ever been, be paying anything so close to the least the law allows?”
She said the Walt Disney Company is not doing enough to reward those who keep it running every day. Specifically, she called on corporate executives to give employees pay rises and not just one-off bonuses. She said that even a pay rise would dramatically improve the living standards of workers while having little to no impact on top earners.
“Maybe they can’t afford a third home, or another boat,” she said on Twitter. “I’m not being facetious here. That’s the kind of sacrifice we’d be talking about for high-level execs.”
Disney is the heiress to a massive fortune from her family’s company, but has given away over $70 million since she turned 21, she told New York Magazine’s The Cut.
“I’m in a position to continue giving a lot of money away until the day I die. I really considered giving it all away at a certain point in my 20s, and I know people who did that,” she told the magazine. “Now I’m glad I didn’t give it all away, because my money has grown. Now I’ve given away so much more than I inherited. And I’m so much smarter now. What I would’ve done in my 20s would have been great and nice, but I’m so much more effective now.”