Walt Disney Co. is fighting back after Sen. Elizabeth Warren wrote a scathing open letter this week that slammed the company for reinstating pay for senior executives who had taken salary cuts during the coronavirus pandemic and other financial decisions benefiting shareholders before the company revealed massive layoffs.
The company said in a statement, “Senator Warren’s misinformed letter contains a number of inaccuracies.”
Warren, D-Mass., wrote to Disney CEO Bob Chapek and Bob Iger, the former CEO turned Disney executive chairman, critical of the company’s compensation to executives and how it has treated workers.
“In the years leading up to this crisis, your company prioritized the enrichment of executives and stockholders through hefty compensation packages, and billions of dollars’ worth of dividend payments and stock buybacks, all of which weakened Disney’s financial cushion and ability to retain and pay its front-line workers amid the pandemic,” Warren wrote.
Warren also expressed concerns about the company terminating Florida workers and blaming the layoffs in California on “public health measures, which were implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.” Disneyland remains closed without an opening date. Disney World theme parks reopened in mid-July.
Disney’s statement responded with, “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.”
Walt Disney Co. announced last month it was laying off 28,000 people across its theme park division.
The company later disclosed details about how it would affect Orlando, revealing nearly 6,700 non-union Disney World employees are losing their jobs in December.
In addition, about 8,860 hourly part-time union employees who had been furloughed will be laid off, according to the company’s largest union coalition, which said those workers can get recalled when the company eventually needs them again.
The layoffs in Florida amount to about 20% of the company’s pre-coronavirus workforce of about 77,000.