(MarketWatch) So much for the “Happiest Place on Earth.” The heiress to the Disney fortune recently went to one of its theme parks undercover, and says the visit made her “livid.”
Abigail Disney told the Yahoo News show “Through Her Eyes” that a worker sent her a Facebook message expressing how tragic being employed at the Magic Kingdom has become. So she went to Disneyland to see it for herself.
“Every single one of these people I talked to were saying, ‘I don’t know how I can maintain this face of joy and warmth when I have to go home and forage for food in other people’s garbage,’” Disney, 59, told Yahoo News host and human rights activist Zainab Salbi in an interview posted Monday.
Disney is the granddaughter of the late Roy Disney, who co-founded The Walt Disney Co. with his brother, Walt Disney. She does not have an active role in the company. Disney said that her grandfather would not approve of the current working conditions at the parks he helped create.
She added that, “these people are much of the recipe for success …. when my grandfather worked there, he hired people there to have a job for life.”
This isn’t the first time that Abigail Disney has criticized how the Mickey Mouse company and its CEO, Bob Iger, are treating its lowest-paid employees. The Walt Disney Co. employs more than 200,000 people worldwide.
In April, she said that Iger’s $65 million pay package is “insane” at a Fast Company Impact Council discussion of “human capitalism,” noting his compensation is 1,424 times that of the median Disney employee. She also told CNBC that “Jesus Christ himself isn’t worth 500 times his median worker’s pay.”
A 2018 survey conducted by on behalf of a group of unions found that nearly three-quarters of full- and part-time employees (73%) said that they didn’t earn enough money working at Disneyland Resort to pay for basic expenses each month. More than half were worried about being evicted, and about one-tenth reported being homeless in the previous two years.
Disney, whose own net worth is $120 million, joined a group of 19 ultrawealthy Americans, including George Soros, who signed an open letter to the 2020 presidential candidates last month calling for a moderate wealth tax on the richest 1% to help reduce inequality. She recently told The Cut that she has donated $70 million to charity over the past 30 years.
She also told Yahoo in the new interview that she’d emailed Iger her concerns, telling him he was “a great CEO by any measure, perhaps even the greatest CEO in the country right now,” and urging him to “be known as the guy who led to a better place, because that is what you have the power to do.” She said she was referred to the HR department.
The Walt Disney Co. responded in an email statement to MarketWatch that the company offers a starting minimum wage of $15 an hour, as well as free education opportunities, and healthcare benefits for hourly workers starting at $6 a week.
“Our Disney Aspire initiative is the most comprehensive employee education program in the country, covering 100% of all tuition costs, books and fees so our hourly workers can pursue higher education free of charge, and graduate free of debt. Under Bob Iger’s leadership, Disney has made an initial commitment of $150 million to fund this program in the first five years, and will continue to make significant investments to make Disney Aspire available to as many employees as possible,” the statement continued. “Disney also provides flexible schedules and subsidized childcare to make it easier for employees to take advantage of this opportunity — and we’re proud that more than 40% of our 88,000-plus hourly employees have already signed up to participate.”