Senator Elizabeth Warren Sends Letter to Bob Iger and Bob Chapek Questioning Mass Layoffs Following the Reinstatement of Executive Salaries

Senator Elizabeth Warren has penned a poignant, scathing letter to senior executives of The Walt Disney Company, demanding answers in the wake of mass layoffs impacting up to 28,000 Cast Members across Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort. In it, she reiterates many valid points, from the blatant reinstatement of the salaries of Bob Chapek and other executives just months before the mass layoff, to other questionable company priorities, such as the payment of generous dividends to shareholders, and stock buybacks.

Dear Mr. Iger and Mr. Chapek:

I write to express concern about The Walt Disney Company’s (Disney) recent decision to lay off 28,000 workers during an economic recession while reinstating pay rates for highly compensated senior executives. 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. While I appreciate that your company has continued to provide health-care benefits to furloughed workers for the past six months, 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.

The letter starts out acknowledging the company’s efforts in providing healthcare to its furloughed workers throughout the pandemic, but ultimately bringing to light the fact that thousands of Cast Member will now have to worry about their livelihoods, while CEOs like Bob Chapek are back to raking in million-dollar bonuses.

Since the start of the pandemic, California has had over 830,000 COVID-19 cases, and over 16,000 individuals in the state have died… While your company has blamed your decision to lay off thousands of workers on California public health measures, which were implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and save lives, nearly 6,400 of the employees you laid off are actually in Florida. And just last week, another 8,857 part-time employees were laid off, also in Florida.

California is now a point of contention as state officials and Disney executives butt heads over reopening dates and guidelines. As Warren succinctly points out, while Disney blamed the prolonged closure of Disneyland Resort as a major factor in “exacerbating” the financial impact of COVID-19, the majority of layoffs actually took place in Florida.

The September 29th announcement describes reducing staff as a “very difficult decision,” resulting from the “the prolonged impact of COVID-19 on our business.” However, this explanation fails to acknowledge Disney’s short-sighted business decisions that reduced its capital, including (1) spending billions of dollars to repurchase its own shares over the last decade, (2) rewarding its shareholders through billions of dollars in dividend payments, and (3) showering its top company executives with over-the-top compensation packages…

Warren boldly states that Disney’s short-sightedness is what ultimately led to these mass layoffs, and while penned as a “very difficult decision”, it’s unclear the company will offer these Cast Members any form of relief. In short, “Disney took good care of its top executives and shareholders – and now is hanging its front-line workers out to dry.”

Sen. Warren’s thoughts mirror many of the opinions we’ve reflected across our posts here at WDWNT, and we appreciate her taking a stand on behalf of Cast Members across both coasts. You can read her full letter embedded below, including a series of 7 follow-up questions to which she requests a response by October 27, 2020.