Senator Elizabeth Warren has blasted Disney over its decision to lay off 28,000 employees, asserting that the entertainment giant’s priorities are unfairly weighted in favor of shareholders and executive pay packages.
Warren issued the accusations in a letter released Wednesday, two weeks after Disney announced the layoffs and blamed the state of California’s “unwillingness” to lift COVID-19 restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen. Disney hit back by saying Warren’s letter contained “inaccuracies.”
Warren said Disney depleted its capital cushion by “showering its top executives with over-the-top compensation packages and salaries” and spending $47.9 billion on share buybacks between 2009 and 2018.
“It appears that — prior to, and during the pandemic — Disney took good care of its top executives and shareholders — and is now hanging its front-line workers out to dry,” Warren wrote in the letter.
Disney said in a statement, “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.”
Disney again blamed the state of California, which “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.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom said earlier this week that he was sending a team of people to parks open in other states to learn what precautions they are taking to avoid the spread of COVID-19. The governor has not yet sets out a clear timeline for when he will allow large theme parks such as Disneyland to resume operations.
California’s theme parks have been shut since mid-March. Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., which also closed in March, reopened in mid-July with increased health and safety measures as well as reduced visitor capacity.