Both Disneyland and Walt Disney World have remained closed to the public since mid-March. As stay-at-home orders continue while the United States combats the COVID-19 pandemic, the theme parks nationwide will also stay closed. As of April 18, the Walt Disney Company’s decision to stop paying 100,000 of its workers went into effect after a month of paid furlough. The daughter of Roy E. Disney and heiress is now speaking out against the business move.
Documentary filmmaker, philanthropist and activist Abigail Disney has been outspoken before about the way Disney does things. This time, she’s calling for the company to reverse its recent decision to defer its employees’ paychecks to collect unemployment from the states instead of paying them whilst Disney Parks remains closed.
According to Financial Times, Disney will save itself $500 million a month while 100,000 of its workers are furloughed without pay, even though one analyst estimates the company “could afford” to keep paying them. The company is looking ahead to a “very prolonged shutdown,” but the state alternatives for its employees are rough.
The Walt Disney Company is providing a full year of health benefits during the crisis, but for the thousands of Florida cast members who cannot work at Walt Disney World, the state only offers $275 a week for 12 weeks, for example. Abigail Disney admits she’d been holding her tongue about the issue before, but couldn’t keep quiet any longer. In her words:
THIS COMPANY MUST DO BETTER. Disney faces a rough couple of years, to be sure. The challenges are existential, even. But that does not constitute permission to continue pillaging and rampaging by management. In fact, if a bonus reflects performance, we might want to claw back some of those millions given how they've managed cash. Between March 31, 2018 and June 30 of 2019 the company made $11.5 billion of stock buybacks. ELEVEN. POINT. FIVE. BILLION.
In an extensive Twitter thread, Abigail Disney detailed some of the inside baseball on the “egregious bonuses” Disney higher-ups make per year that could easily fund Disney employees or COVID-19 frontline workers. She cited $1.5 billion in dividend bonuses going to Bob Iger and recently-named Disney CEO Bob Chapek.
The Disney heiress alleged that Bob Iger would be making 1500 times more than the average Disney employee by the end of the year, before these furloughs. Abigail Disney continued to criticize the company with this:
They have consistently tried to PR their way through a series of messes of their own making, and that will only last for so long. I don't have a role at the company, which is fine with me. I'm just a citizen who cares and I think that makes me free to say what I believe. But I am an heir. And I do carry this name with me everywhere. And I have a conscience which makes it very difficult for me to sit by when I see abuses taking place with that name attached to them. This isn't all that hard. This isn't all that complicated. Just give up SOME of your already ample compensation, especially this year. Give up, god forbid two or three basis points on the annual return.
As Abigail Disney explained, she does not have a position in the company, and that is of her choice, but she is concerned about the way those in charge of Disney do business. She called for the Walt Disney Company to change its unbalanced business model now:
Analysts will shout and scream and have little temper tantrums. Who cares. You are bigger than they are. And as the biggest, most exceptional, most iconic guy in town, you could CHOOSE TO LEAD. If you do, who knows who would follow you. We have a moment here. A crisis is always an opportunity for change. Reassess this mess you've made of the goodwill you got handed on which you depend more than you like to admit. And pay the people who make the magic happen with respect and dignity they have more than earned from you. BE DECENT.
For the time being, the parks are scheduled to reopen on June 30 – after almost four months of being closed. Bob Iger discussed a massive obstacle in opening the doors of the parks, explaining that they will ”need some mass testing” before allowing its employees to return to work. Stay up to date on Disney Parks news here on CinemaBlend.