Putting it where her mouth is

Abigail Disney felt pangs of guilt when she slid between the sheets on her queen-size bed in the family’s Boeing 737. This is wrong, she told herself. The moment wasn’t the first time she felt discomfort when her wealth accorded her special privileges.

In Sheelah Kolhatkar’s well-researched article in the Jan. 6 edition of New Yorker, we learn of Abigail Disney’s fight to right the wrongs of income inequality. Ms. Disney is the granddaughter of Roy Disney, co-founder with his brother Walt of the Disney company. Her father was a senior executive with the company for years. He owned a Being 737 and let Abigail use it. As a child, she also felt uncomfortable about the special privileges her wealth afforded her. She gave up the plane and started advocating for equality for women.

She joined Patriotic Millionaires, an organization of wealthy Americans concerned about income inequality. In 2018, she received a message from a Disneyland custodian who asked her to help many workers who are barely able to survive on their salaries. What could I do? she asked herself.  She met with members of an employees’ union and learned the realities of how Disney workers were underpaid and struggling. She also learned that CEO Bob Iger’s pay was 1,400 times that pf the median pay of Disney employees. She wrote to him, arguing that the company would be damaged by reports of low pay for employees. At the time, Iger was considering a run for president. This was an opportunity, she told him.

In September 2019, the Census Bureau reported that income inequality in the United States had reached its highest level in 50 years. Inequality.org reports that over the past five decades, the top 1 percent of American earners have nearly doubled their share of national income. Meanwhile, an estimated 43.5 percent of the total U.S. population are either poor or low income. “Income disparities have become so pronounced that America’s top 10 percent now average more than nine times as much income as the bottom 90 percent. Americans in the top 1 percent tower stunningly higher. They average over 39 times more income than the bottom 90 percent.”

Since that moment aboard her family’s private jet, Abigail Disney has become an energetic voice against income equality, working to change the minds and hearts of the nation’s wealthy business leaders.

Her personal net worth is about $140 million. She has given away about $65 million of it.

She believes that everyone who works deserves a wage sufficient for a decent life. “Put your money where your mouth is,” goes the familiar saying. She’s doing that.