Abigail Disney Is the Conscience Disneyland Needs [Alt-Disney]

Hooray for Abigail! Shutterstock Photo

Anytime the innocence of Disney’s soul comes into question—from labor strife to crass merchandising—the faithful wonder aloud “What Would Walt Do?” Sure, bringing a beloved theme park from imagination to reality gives Walt Disney an authority befitting a founding father. But it’s his grandniece, Abigail Disney, who’s the living Jiminy Cricket conscience the company needs right now.

During last year’s living-wage campaign for Disneyland Resort workers in Anaheim, Abigail stayed as quiet as a mouse—at least publicly. Now, she’s roaring with righteousness! In April, the Disney heiress called company CEO Bob Iger’s $65.6 million in total compensation “insane.” She followed that up with a thunderous tweet storm in June that criticized the company’s $150 million “Disney Aspire” education program for workers.

“If you educate people so as to be in a position to ‘ascend’ to better paying jobs,” Abigail tweeted, “you imply that the jobs at the bottom will always be poorly paid.”

Last week, the documentary filmmaker and activist revealed in an interview with Yahoo! News that she visited Disney workers at a union office in Anaheim, after cast members reached out to her, and became livid at the working conditions they faced. The company responded to Abigail’s criticisms by deeming them a “gross and unfair exaggeration of the facts,” citing a median wage that’s more than $19 per hour for its Orlando and Anaheim theme parks.  

But Abigail’s crusade is far from meritless. The company is currently negotiating wages with Workers United Local 50, a union representing thousands of food-and-beverage workers. With Anaheim exempting the Disneyland Resort from a living-wage law passed by voters in November, many continue making less than $15 per hour. 

And Disney’s no stranger to Abigail’s defiant bloodline. 

The way animator Bill Melendez retold it, Roy Disney, Abigail’s grandfather, shipped his brother Walt off to South America for Saludos Amigos so he could help settle the Disney Animators’ Strike of 1941. Roy E. Disney, her father, led two Save Disney revolts, the last of which came in 2003 when he criticized then-CEO Michael Eisner for turning the company into a “rapacious, soulless conglomerate” after resigning from its board. 

What would Abigail do? There’s no need to ask. 

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