Disney responded to claims about worker conditions made by a Disney heiress, calling them "a gross and unfair exaggeration of the facts."
In a recent interview for Yahoo’s “Through Her Eyes,” Abigail Disney described meeting with Disneyland employees to better understand their grievances about their work. What she saw, she claims, made her “livid.”
A spokesperson for Disney, however, responded to her claims, saying, "We generally avoid commenting on such baseless reports like this, but this one is particularly egregious and we won’t let this stand.
"We strongly disagree with this characterization of our employees and their experience at Disney. This widely reported stunt is a gross and unfair exaggeration of the facts that is not only a misrepresentation but also an insult to the thousands of employees who are part of the Disney community. We continually strive to enhance the employment experience of our more than 200,000 employees through a variety of benefits and programs that provide them opportunity, mobility and well-being."
The statement continues on to state that they pay employees at their parks in Orlando and Anaheim earn an average of $19.50 an hour. Employees also have access to subsidized childcare and leave policies, access to pharmacies and clinics and free college degrees and vocational training for hourly employees.
The statement concludes, "We’re proud of the work we’ve done to improve the lives of our employees, and of the more than 45,000 jobs we’ve added in the United States since 2005. The men and women who make Disney parks such a special experience for millions of people are dedicated, hardworking and proud, and we will continue to listen to, empower and reward them. That’s what this company has done throughout its history and will continue to do in the future.”
Abigail claims that she was inspired to check on the workers' conditions after receiving a Facebook message from a distressed employee, Yahoo reports. During the interview, she described meeting workers who claimed that they had to pretend to be happy at work while struggling to make ends meet at home.
Abigail appears to be referencing a story that surfaced in April, where she described meeting with employees at the Anaheim, Calif., park, as reported by The Washington Post.
“Every single one of these people I talked to were saying, ‘I don't know how I can maintain this face of joy and warmth when I have to go home and forage for food in other people's garbage,” Disney told Zainab Salbi, the host of Yahoo's "Through Her Eyes."
“I was so livid when I came out of there because, you know, my grandfather taught me to revere these people that take your tickets, that pour your soda,” she continued.
“Those people are much of the recipe for success,” said Disney. ”When my grandfather worked there, he hired people there to have a job for life.”
Abigail Disney also called out Disney CEO Bob Iger for what she sees as a huge gap between his salary and the average Disney worker. “Bob needs to understand he's an employee, just the same as the people scrubbing gum off the sidewalk are employees,” she said during the interview. “They're entitled to all the same dignity and human rights that he is.”
Abigail Disney is the granddaughter of Roy Disney, older brother to Walt and co-founder of Walt Disney Productions. Abigail Disney does not have an active role in the company.
Disneyland employs an estimated 30,000 cast members and pays a starting hourly wage of $15, which is higher than the California minimum wage requirements of $12 an hour. Full-time employees are also offered low-cost health care benefits and childcare assistance, a spokesperson confirmed to Fox News.
"Disney is at the forefront of providing workforce education, which is widely recognized as the best way to create economic opportunity for employees and empower upward mobility," a spokesperson for the Walk Disney Company said in a statement. "The Disney Aspire initiative is the most comprehensive employee education program in the country, covering 100 percent of all tuition costs, books and fees so our hourly workers can pursue higher education free of charge, and graduate free of debt."
The statement adds that Disney made a commitment of $150 million to fund the Disney Aspire initiative for the first five years, with plans to continue to make future investments.
Disney also confirmed that employees have access to subsidized childcare and flexible schedules if they plan to participate in the initiative.
"American workers need meaningful change; they deserve smart policies and practical programs, like Disney Aspire, that empower them to achieve their goals and ensure they are part of the most competitive workforce in the world," the statement concludes.