Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney, made $37 million last year. A $52 billion deal with Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox granted Iger $100 million worth of stock. It raised his annual compensation, including bonuses and stock grants, to $48 million.
Meanwhile, Disney World and Disneyland workers are living in and out of motels or homeless shelters. They are getting by paycheck to paycheck and demand a living wage of $15, which Iger and his company refuse to pay.
Thirty-six thousand unionized Disney workers claim the company is denying them $1,000 bonuses, which were to be offered as a result of tax cuts. However, the company is holding the bonuses hostage until contract negotiations are resolved.
Journalist Michael Sainato recently spoke with several Disney workers and published his report at Shadowproof. He also covered the unionizing efforts of workers at one Burgerville location in Portland, which we published.
We asked Sainato to share more of his thoughts on these workers’ struggles happening in the United States.
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Disney workers describing life in motels because they are paid poverty wages was one of the more stunning parts of your report. How common is this in the United States?
Budget motels are a last refuge for people with nowhere else to go. There isn’t a lot of data on the number of people living out of motels, but there have been a lot of reports on how these motels are becoming more popular in areas with a lack of affordable housing and impacting low-income workers in a wide variety of professions.
One aspect your reports on Burgerville workers and Disney workes have in common is the fact that workers are so vulnerable to workplace retaliation, especially if they organize or speak out. What has to happen to protect them?
Workers need to unionize to protect workers from employer abuse, which is what Burgerville workers are trying to do. With large corporations like Disney, the media and public need to be informed of the ways in which the workers at these places are treated, and put public pressure on improving conditions. At the policy level, state governments, legislators, and activists need to push for policies that strengthen unions and protect workers.
Your report on Disney workers did extraordinarily well. Why do you think it resonated with so many people?
[That was a result of] a severe lack of coverage on this fight between unions and Disney, the popularity of Disney, and the public awareness that Disney is a very wealthy, powerful company that easily has the funding and resources to pay their workers a living wage.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on the tree sit-in protests against the Mid-Valley Pipeline and the movement in Seattle to push for a tax on Amazon and other big corporations to fund affordable housing and homeless services.
*Follow Michael Sainato on Twitter at @msainat1 for his latest work.