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Abigail Disney Calls out the Corporate Greed of the Walt Disney Company

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 10: Honorary chair and co-founder of Level Forward, Abigail E. Disney speaks onstage during attends the New York Women's Foundation's 2018 "Celebrating Women" breakfast on May 10, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images for The New York Women's Foundation )

Abigail Disney, great-niece of Walt Disney, and daughter of long-time Disney executive Roy Disney, has been a Disney critic in the past and is done holding her tongue during the pandemic. The filmmaker took to Twitter yesterday to call out the ways the Walt Disney Company is failing its frontline employees while giving massive compensation to their executives.

The Tweet-storm was fueled by the news, carried by the Financial Times and tweeted by Lisa Abramowicz, that Disney is freezing pay for more than 100,000 cast members and employees this month in order to save $500 million monthly, while preserving a $1.5 billion dividend plan for stockholders.

Abigail Disney’s takedown of the bonus structure and dividends is careful and nuanced, and starts by making the point that not all dividends are bad and they do provide income for many people. But what Disney is potentially doing is very different.

And that’s the real rub here. The fact that these workers—the people who make Disney parks so magical in the first place—are bearing the brunt of corporate greed and failure. And unfortunately, this attitude is not new.

That’s what’s really upsetting here. Not that Disney is a corporation trying to stay afloat as its main sources of revenue dry up, but the fact that the employees who make the company great, and who the company claims to care about, are suffering while the mega-rich executives take home huge payouts.

There are possible defenses for Disney corp that they’d no doubt point to. These compensation plans are based on contracts written before the crisis. This is how business is done in America, where profits matter more than people. These sessions are made separately for the cost-saving measures that are taking away income from the front lines … but none of that is an actual excuse, it’s just another point proving that corporate structures are unfair and greedy.

Disney is just an example of how so many corporations work, where the left hand doesn’t know or care what the right is doing and they engage in “business strategies” that preserve the company and incomes of shareholders, while at the same time failing and even exploiting the employees that make the company profitable and attractive to customers in the first place. It’s depressing, but not unique. But with Disney, which tries to maintain a “magical” reputation, it’s extra painful to see.

But that’s also why it matters when someone with the last name “Disney” calls this nonsense out.

Abigail Disney is an activist and philanthropist who has been critical of the company her family founded before, and there’s never been a better time to bring up the inequality that corporate structure enforces. She’s right that these frontline workers shouldn’t suffer while people like Bob Iger take home massive compensation from stocks.

Disney, the company, needs to do much, much better, and it’s a good thing that Abigail Disney, the person, is calling them out.

(via: Twitter, image:  Monica Schipper/Getty Images for The New York Women’s Foundation )

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.