Disney CEO Bob Iger Responds to Bernie Sanders’ Criticism Like a Petulant Child

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Sometimes, in the course of looking for our normal news about fictional people and the worlds they inhabit, we wind up reading stuff about the real people and companies behind them in the—ugh—real world. It’s kind of a job hazard, but sometimes, these stories are too hard to ignore, and Bob Iger’s response to criticism of Disney from Bernie Sanders is one of those times.

Let me be clear up front: I’m not a Bernie Sanders supporter. I’m not against him, either; he’s just not the person I voted for. I am a very big supporter of people who do the work that makes a company function being able to reasonably afford a life in exchange for that work, and so is Sanders. So, then, I agreed with him when he complained that, while Disney is a massively successful company rolling in profit, its theme park workers are paid far too little. At a rally on Tuesday in Anaheim, CA (home of Disneyland), Sanders asked the crowd if anyone made a living wage working for Disney.

He then said, “It’s an example of what we’re talking about when we talk about a rigged economy. Disney pays its workers wages that are so low that many of them are forced to live in motels because they cannot afford a decent place to live.”

Disney, of course, didn’t take too kindly to that, with a spokesperson responding (via Variety),

Mr. Sanders clearly doesn’t have his facts right. The Disneyland Resort generates more than $5.7 billion annually for the local economy, and as the area’s largest employer has added more than 11,000 jobs over the last decade, a 65% increase. These numbers don’t take into account our $1 billion expansion to add a Star Wars-themed land, which will create thousands of additional jobs across multiple sectors.

That’s nice and all, but it’s a deflection that does nothing to address the issue Sanders was talking about: wages. Of course, the company had to try to put some kind of positive spin on it, but it would be nice if they’d take the criticism to heart and raise wages instead of doubling down, which Disney CEO Bob Iger did in a Facebook post obtained by The Wrap. Iger responded,

To Bernie Sanders: We created 11,000 new jobs at Disneyland in the past decade, and our company has created 18,000 in the US in the last five years. How many jobs have you created? What have you contributed to the US economy?

That’s an extremely disappointing mentality for the person in charge of the Walt Disney Company. A response that is effectively, “I know you are but what am I?” isn’t the kind you’d hope for, even behind the scenes, from Disney’s own CEO—especially when it’s used as an excuse to continue paying people poorly when the criticism would go away entirely just by saying, “You know what? You’re right. There isn’t a reason for us to pay people so little. We’re sorry,” and raising wages. “Creating jobs” isn’t noble in itself when the people in those jobs are helping you make tons of money while you refuse to pay them accordingly.

I take no pleasure in the fact that Iger’s personal Facebook post was turned into news, but it was, and I hope that he realizes why people are upset with this response.

(image via Josh Hallett on Flickr)

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Dan Van Winkle
Dan Van Winkle (he) is an editor and manager who has been working in digital media since 2013, first at now-defunct Geekosystem (RIP), and then at The Mary Sue starting in 2014, specializing in gaming, science, and technology. Outside of his professional experience, he has been active in video game modding and development as a hobby for many years. He lives in North Carolina with Lisa Brown (his wife) and Liz Lemon (their dog), both of whom are the best, and you will regret challenging him at Smash Bros.