By Lauren Rearick
Even before debuting in theaters, Disney’s Avengers: Endgame was setting box office records. Since opening on Thursday, April 25, 2019, the film has earned more than $1 billion in global ticket sales. Now, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders has a suggestion for what Disney could possibly do with all that cash.
In a tweet made on Monday, April 29, 2019, the Democratic presidential candidate wrote, “What would be truly heroic is if Disney used its profits from Avengers to pay all of its workers a middle class wage, instead of paying its CEO Bob Iger $65.6 million – over 1,400 times as much as the average worker at Disney makes.” His social media statement was accompanied by a link from Bloomberg that detailed the continued success of Avengers: Endgame.
Sanders’s tweet comes after it was reported by Deadline in January 2019 that Iger received an 80% increase in his pay from 2017 to 2018, due in part to a stock package given to Iger following Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox. The CEO’s $65.7 million salary is estimated to be 1,424 times that of the average Disney employee salary,
Sanders isn’t the only person to criticize Iger’s pay. In a public appearance made in April 2019, Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Roy Disney, called for change, Fast Company reported. “When he [Iger] got his bonus last year, I did the math, and I figured out that he could have given personally, out of pocket, a 15% raise to everyone who worked at Disneyland, and still walked away with $10 million,” she said. “So there’s a point at which there’s just too much going around the top of the system into this class of people who–I’m sorry this is radical–have too much money.”
Although Disney has not yet acknowledged Sanders’s comment, they had responded to Abigail Disney’s criticisms. In a statement to Fast Company, a spokesperson said, “Disney has made historic investments to expand the earning potential and upward mobility of our workers, implementing a starting hourly wage of $15 at Disneyland that’s double the federal minimum wage, and committing up to $150 million for a groundbreaking education initiative that gives our hourly employees the opportunity to obtain a college or vocational degree completely free of charge.”
In January, Sanders reintroduced a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024, up from the current national standard of $7.25; at least six other Democratic presidential hopefuls have also pledged to fight for the same increase if they are elected in 2020. For his part, Sanders has called the current minimum wage a “starvation wage.” Per CNBC, he has also pressured companies like Amazon, McDonald’s, and WalMart to raise their minimum wages up to $15 an hour.