UPDATED with statement from Walt Disney:
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has blasted Walt Disney for deep staff cuts at its U.S. theme parks announced recently even as she said the conglomerate has reinstated pay for highly compensated senior executives.
A Walt Disney company spokesperson in a statement called Senator Warren’s letter “misinformed” and said it contains “a number of inaccuracies.”
“We’ve unequivocally demonstrated our ability to operate responsibly with strict health and safety protocols in place at all of our theme parks worldwide, with the exception of Disneyland Resort in California, where the State has prevented us from reopening even though we have reached agreements with unions representing the majority of our Cast Members that would get them back to work.”
PREVIOUSLY: In a letter to Disney’s executive chairman Bob Iger and CEO Bob Chapek, the former Democratic presidential contender said she was writing to express concern for what she called a lopsided focus on the enrichment “of executives and stockholders through years of hefty compensation packages and billions of dollars worth of dividend payments and stock buybacks” even as Disney said late last month it plans to cut 28,000 jobs at its domestic theme parks.
“The payouts weakened Disney’s financial cushion and ability to retain and pay its front-line workers amid the pandemic,” Warren said.
Disney executives had taken base pay cuts during the pandemic but she called the amounts “a drop in the bucket.” Senior executives across the company were also asked to take COVID-related reductions last spring but those were rolled back in August. It wasn’t clear then if full pay also resumed at the chairman and CEO level.
Disney had continue to provide health care benefits to workers who were furloughed when the the theme parks closed in March due to the pandemic. But, Warren said, “thousands of laid off employees will now have to worry about how to keep food on the table as executives begin receiving hefty paychecks again.”
She posed a series of questions for which she requested responses no later than October 27, including details of the layoffs and clarification on executive pay, stock buybacks and dividend payouts.
A Disney rep was not immediately available for comment.
Read the letter here: