Corrections & clarifications: An earlier version of this story mischaracterized the nature of Abigail Disney’s visit to Disneyland. Disney told Yahoo News that she “went to Anaheim,” not that she went undercover.
The Happiest Place on Earth has made one Disney heiress very unhappy.
Abigail Disney, granddaughter of The Walt Disney Company’s co-founder, Roy Disney, told Yahoo News she recently went to Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, after an employee sent her a concerning Facebook message. Roy Disney was Walt Disney’s older brother.
Disney said every employee she met on her visit said low wages make daily life difficult.
“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,’ ” the 59-year-old said on Monday’s episode of the Yahoo News podcast “Through Her Eyes.”
A statement provided to USA TODAY by a Walt Disney Company spokesperson stated: “We strongly disagree with this characterization of our employees and their experience at Disney.”
Although Disney is not involved in the company herself, she said working conditions there do not reflect her grandfather’s values.
“I was so livid when I came out of there because, you know, my grandfather taught me to revere these people that take your tickets, that pour your soda,” she continued.
This is not the first time the filmmaker and philanthropist has criticized wealth inequality. Along with 20 other members of America’s top 1% of earners, she signed a letter in June asking 2020 presidential candidates to raise their taxes.
Disney said the company’s current CEO Robert Iger, who makes about $66 million a year, should respect every one of his workers, no matter their position.
“Bob needs to understand he’s an employee, just the same as the people scrubbing gum off the sidewalk are employees,” Disney said. “And they’re entitled to all the same dignity and human rights that he is.”
The heiress told Yahoo News she wrote “a very long email” to Iger telling him to think more about how his legacy will affect the world.
“[O]ne of the things I said to him was, ‘You know, you’re a great CEO by any measure, perhaps even the greatest CEO in the country right now,’ ” she said. ” ‘You know, your legacy is that you’re a great manager. And if I were you, I would want something better than that. I would want to be known as the guy who led to a better place, because that is what you have the power to do.’”
According to Abigail Disney, Iger never responded.
The Walt Disney Company statement outlined company programs that support its more than 200,000 employees. The company cited Disney Aspire, an education initiative, as an example. It covers 100 percent of all tuition costs, books and fees for workers, according to the spokesperson.
The company, which also offers flexible schedules and subsidized childcare, has committed $150 million to Disney Aspire for its first five years, with additional investments expected, the spokesperson said, also noting the company pays its hourly workers an average of $19.50 an hour.
Warning: This video contains violence . A violent brawl broke out between guests at the “happiest place on earth” over the weekend. (Video credit: SJP35 Production)
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“Disney is at the forefront of providing workforce education, which is widely recognized as the best way to create economic opportunity for employees and empower upward mobility,” the statement said. “American workers need meaningful change; they deserve smart policies and practical programs, like Disney Aspire, that empower them to achieve their goals and ensure they are part of the most competitive workforce in the world.”
Abigail Disney said the issues at the theme park reveal a systemic problem.
“The system is the problem, and the people inside of the system who are perfectly comfortable with the system are the problem,” Disney told “Through Her Eyes.” “I don’t think any president of the United States has as much power as some CEOs in this country.”
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