By Scott Klinger
Florida’s Disney World bills itself “the happiest place on Earth.” But last year, some Disney World employees made so little they becamehomeless.
Meanwhile, Disney paid CEO Robert Iger $46.5 million. That amounts to a stunning $248 a minute if he works 60 hours a week. It’s over 2,200 times the median pay of the workers he employs to welcome guests, operate rides, sell food, and clean his theme parks, according to economist Dean Baker.
Iger rakes in the price of a single-day pass to the main park every 25 seconds. His lowest-paid workers, meanwhile, can’t afford the cost of entry after a full day’s work. Ride operators and park cleaners would need to work full time for nearly six days to afford a single day’s park admission for a family of four.
Even after a raise to $10 an hour they negotiated for next year, Disney employees can only expect to take home about $20,000 over the course of a year. It’s hard to live on that kind of pay in Orlando, where one-bedroom apartments average $822 a month.
Across the country, tens of thousands of low-wage workers have participated in strikes calling for a $15-an-hour minimum wage. A major target has been Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest employer.
Like Disney, Wal-Mart has responded to pressure by announcing modest wage increases for its lowest-paid workers. Since April, all Wal-Mart employees have earned $9 an hour. Early next year, a $10-an-hour minimum will kick in.
Yet Wal-Mart’s new CEO, C. Douglas McMillon, raked in over $19 million last year. He made as much in one minute as entry-level Wal-Mart workers made in a day and a half.
Wal-Mart’s also provided McMillon with a retirement account worth $65.7 million. If he retired today, he’d get a monthly check for $361,230 for the rest of his life. A low-wage Wal-Mart worker would have to work full-time nearly 20 years to earn that.
But the winner of the Holy Guacamole pay award goes to Chipotle’s co-CEOs Steve Ells and Monty Moran. The company touts itself as a pay leader in the fast-food industry, but its average starting wage is only about $9 an hour. Ells and Moran together pulled in $305 a minute last year.
These are just a few examples of highly profitable companies that pay their CEOs millions while forcing workers to rely on public assistance and private charities. Ten bucks an hour is sure better than the current federal minimum of $7.25, but it’s nowhere near enough to live on or support a family.
Legislation called the Raise the Wage Act would increase the federal minimum to $12 an hour by 2020. This would directly benefit more than 37 million American workers. It’s good for the rest of us, too.
More people with money in their pockets means businesses will sell more stuff. It encourages new job growth to satisfy increased demand. And the government will spend less to help low-wage workers pay for food and housing, so our tax dollars can be invested in education and repairing roads, bridges, dams, and other infrastructure — creating more jobs and a better quality of life for all of us.
Raising wages alone won’t turn America into the happiest place on earth, but it’s an important step toward creating an economy that works for us all.
Scott Klinger is the director of revenue and spending policies at the Center for Effective Government in Washington. Previously, he was the Tax Policy Director at the American Sustainable Business Council and an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, where he wrote about issues of tax and economic inequality.