Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) hosted a forum with labor groups and employees of the Disney corporation in California on Saturday and castigated one of the wealthiest and most powerful media companies in the world for showering its executives and investors with millions of dollars while lower-level workers continue with “poverty wages” that make it nearly impossible to make ends meet.
“We are talking about a company that has received huge tax breaks from the tax payers here in Anaheim, but in addition to that, received over $1 billion in tax breaks from Trump’s tax giveaway to the wealthy,” Sanders told the crowd Saturday morning at the event that took place near the company’s iconic Disneyland theme park. “The time is now to have an economy that works for everyone, not just a handful of billionaires.”
As local KLEW news channel notes, Disney is enjoying “a tax break of about $267 million over 20 years to build a luxury hotel at Disneyland where 85 percent of employees currently receive an hourly wage of less than $15.
According to the Commercial Observer, the event with Sanders follows “a widely publicized economic survey conducted by Occidental showed that a majority of Disneyland resort workers struggle to pay for basic living costs, including food, housing and healthcare. The survey, ‘Working for the Mouse,’ reported that 11 percent of Disneyland workers have been homeless in the last two years, 68 percent are food insecure and 36 percent report having to sacrifice necessities to pay monthly health insurance premiums.”
Disney employees at the forum told their own stories of struggle and poverty even as they work for one of the most recognizable and profitable companies on Earth.
Another woman who works at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa explained to local news channel KTLA 5 that she has difficulty making ends meet on what she’s paid. “I currently make $11 an hour,” she said, but “I don’t eat three meals a day on a regular basis, and when I can it’s cans of tuna or carrots and celery sticks because they’re cheap enough for me to be able to afford three meals a day that way.”
Saturday’s event also coincides with, the Observer added, “ongoing contract negotiations between the Big Mouse and employees and an announcement by a coalition of 11 labor unions representing Disneyland workers proclaiming that they collected the 21,000 signatures required to put a ballot measure before Anaheim voters this November that would require Walt Disney Co. and other large Anaheim employers that accept city subsidies to pay the resort workers a ‘living wage.'”
Some of the Disney workers who attended the forum said their efforts to organize is about more than just fighting for themselves: