February 21, 2024

Disney CEO Strike Comments Draw Backlash Over Pay Package

  • Disney CEO Bob Iger recently called the strikers’ expectations “not realistic,” quickly drawing criticism.
  • Actor Sean Gunn and SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher called him tone deaf and out of touch.
  • Iger could make more than $27 million this year, 535 times the median pay of his employees.

Disney CEO Bob Iger, who came out of retirement to be reinstated last November, has drawn criticism and scrutiny over his pay package following his recent comments on the Hollywood writers and actors strike.

In an interview last week with CNBC at the Sun Valley Conference in Idaho, commonly referred to as the “summer camp for billionaires,” Iger called the strike “very disturbing,” and said the strikers’ expectations are “unrealistic.”

“I respect their right and their desire to get as much as they can in return for their people,” said Iger of the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA, the actors’ union. “But you also have to be realistic about the business environment and what this business can deliver. It’s a great business and it’s been a great business for all these people and it will continue to be even in turbulent times. But, being realistic here is key.”

Iger’s comments quickly drew criticism from those involved in the strike, some of whom took the opportunity to point out his multi-million pay package from Disney.

In a picket line interview in Los Angeles on July 14, “Guardians of the Galaxy” actor Sean Gunn pointed out the pay gap between Bob Iger and the average Disney employee, calling it a “fucking shame.”

“I think when Bob Iger talks about what a shame it is, he needs to remember that in 1980 CEOs like him made 30 times what their lowest paid worker was making,” Gunn said. “Now Bob Iger makes 400 times what his lowest worker was.”

So is that true?

CEO pay has generally been increasing over the past 40 years. The average CEO in 1978 made about 31 times what their average worker made, according to the Economic Policy Institute. In 2020, the average CEO made 346 times what their average worker made.

At Disney, the average worker’s pay is $54,256, according to the company’s latest proxy statement. Iger’s total compensation in 2021, his most recent full year as CEO, was over $45 million. According to s a contract announced last November, Iger’s base salary is $1 million with the potential for a bonus equal to 100% of that salary, plus $25 million in Disney equity. That’s a total of $27 million – 535 times the median Disney employee pay. Recently amendment he raised that bonus potential to 500% of his base salary, increasing his earning potential to about $31 million.

SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher called Iger’s comments “extremely repugnant and out of touch, positively tone-deaf.”

“He’s sitting in his designer clothes and just got on his private jet at the billionaire’s camp, telling us we’re unrealistic and making $78,000 a day,” Drescher said in a statement. live interview with Senator Bernie Sanders. “How do you deal with someone like that who is so tone-deaf?”

If Iger makes $27 million this year, he would be making $74,000 a day. If he is awarded his full bonus potential, his total compensation for the duration of the contract would be approximately $84,000 per day.

“If I were that company, I would lock him behind doors and not let him talk to anyone about this,” Drescher said Diversity. “Because it’s so obvious that he has no clue what’s really happening on the ground with hard-working people who are making nowhere near the salary he’s making.”

Great pay difference common throughout the media industry: the CEO of Warner Bros. David Zaslav over $246 million in 2021, which is 2,972 times what the median employee made. Netflix chairman Reed Hastings, who has since left the role of CEO, made over $40 million in 2021, or 202 times the median employee’s salary. Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast, made nearly $34 million that same year, 405 times higher.

Under his new contract, Iger could make as much as $31 million in 2023 — less than any of his peers’ recent paychecks, but still a number only the best players could ever reach.

“Maybe you should look in the mirror and ask yourself, why is that?” Gunn asked, asking Iger about his pay inequity. “And not just why is that, is it okay? Is it morally okay? And if so, why? Why is that okay?”

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