News & Politics

Disney Inadvertently Exposes Trump's Tax Cut for the Scam It's Been from the Start

A new complaint claims the House of Mouse is holding its $1,000 bonuses hostage.

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When Donald Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into law, he touted the legislation as a financial boon for American labor. As recently as January, Trump pointed to $1,000 bonuses for employees that American Airlines, AT&T and Disney have announced as proof corporations would reinvest the billions of dollars they stand to save in their respective workforces. But if the president has offered a vision of how tax cuts for multinational corporations might operate in theory, an unfair labor practice complaint filed Tuesday reveals how they work in practice. 

According to the Orange County Register, Unite Here Local 11, a union representing 2,700 housekeepers and other low-wage workers, has accused the Walt Disney Co. of effectively holding its bonuses hostage to secure a more favorable bargaining agreement. Disney is refusing to release the one-time payments “notwithstanding the union’s lack of objection," the statement reads. “[The company] has violated its duty to bargain in good faith, and has engaged in conduct that is inherently destructive to rights guaranteed employees under the [National Labor Relations] Act.” (For Disney's part, a spokeswoman maintains the company has a "strong offer on the table.")

The move comes on the heels of Disney's decision to jack up entrance fees at its theme parks in California and Florida as part of an effort, it claims, to reduce crowding. Earlier this month, Disney raised the price of regular admission at Disneyland from $110 to $117, and a single ticket during peak days from $124 to $135. At Epcot in Orlando, regular admission has climbed from $115 to $119 and peak tickets from $124 to $129. The mass media and entertainment conglomerate posts annual revenues in excess of $55 billion, and Unite Here estimates Disney will receive a windfall between $1.6 and $2 billion from the latest tax bill.

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When Disney announced its cash bonuses for 125,000 U.S.-based employees in January, CEO Bob Iger (who briefly served on Trump's advisory council before resigning in protest) was quick to credit the Republican legislation. “I am proud we are directing approximately $125 million to our cast members and employees across the country and making higher education more accessible with the launch of this new program,” he said in a press release. “I have always believed that education is the key to opportunity; it opens doors and creates new possibilities. Matched with the $1,000 cash bonus, these initiatives will have both an immediate and long-term positive impact.”

Regulatory findings released last month indicate Iger earned $36.3 million in compensation for 2017, which is $7.6 million less than he made the year before. The average union member at Disney World is paid $10.71 an hour, while just 3,000 employees earn in excess of $15. Disneyland staffers make a fraction more, the beneficiaries of California's decision last month to raise its minimum wage from $10.50 to $11 an hour. Unite Here's latest filing follows a separate complaint by a coalition of unions representing 38,000 Disney World workers in Florida.

“Disney said you can have $1,000 if you agree to stay poor,” claims Eric Clifton, president of Florida Unite Here local, in a video posted to the union’s Facebook page earlier this week. “Let us be clear, Disney cast members deserve a living wage. We will not allow a $1,000 trick of a bonus to be held over our heads.”

H/T Orange County Register

Jacob Sugarman is a managing editor at AlterNet.