News & Politics

Bernie Sanders Declares War on Disney Over the Minimum Wage

Bernie Sanders Declares War on Disney Over the Minimum Wage
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during the CNN Democratic Presidential Primary Debate with Hillary Clinton at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on Thursday, April 14, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

On Saturday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) declared war on Mickey Mouse. The self-declared socialist launched an assault on Disney for not paying its workers enough, just as minimum wage increases have hurt local economies and Sanders’ own liberal state of Vermont has worse inequality problems than Disney.

“We need to shame Disney,” Sanders declared at a rally in Anaheim, Calif. “I want to hear the moral defense of a company that makes $9 billion in profits, $400 million for their CEOs and have a 30-year worker going hungry.”

Sanders, who is reportedly considering another run for the presidency, reiterated his platform for a national $15 per hour minimum wage. “The struggle that you are waging here in Anaheim is not just for you,” the senator added, according to The Hill. “It is a struggle for millions of workers all across this country who are sick and tired of working longer hours for lower wages.”

On that stage at a church on Saturday, Sanders interviewed members of a coalition of unions pushing a petition to make the city government force large employers to raise their minimum wage to $15 per hour. The unions had gathered 21,000 signatures to qualify for a November municipal ballot that would require a $15 minimum wage on January 1, 2019, raising the wage by $1 every January 1 through 2022. After employee pay reached $18 per hour, raises would be pegged to the cost of living.

Ironically, Disney has already made promises to increase wages for Disneyland workers to $15 per hour by 2020. Amid ongoing union negotiations, Disney offered an immediate pay increase to entry-level employees to $13.25 per hour, up from $11 currently. The proposal included a 36 percent increase over three years.

“While Mr. Sanders continues to criticize Disney to keep himself in the headlines, we continue to support our cast members through investments in wages and education,” Suzi Brown, vice president of Disneyland Resort Communications, told The Hill. The company plans to develop an education to allow employees to “pursue skills and degrees to further their careers.”

A survey of Disneyland workers found an astonishingly high percentage struggled to pay basic bills for food and lodging, and that the real wages at the resort decreased over time. Disney dismissed the report as “inaccurate” and “unscientific,” but the park has shown a willingness to negotiate with unions for higher wages.

Whether or not Disneyland should pay workers more, Sanders’ zero-sum view of the economy is wrong, and his insistence on increasing the minimum wage actually hurts workers.

When the minimum wage went up in Seattle, Wash., workers actually clocked fewer hours, making less money, not more. When a similar increase went into effect in San Francisco, workers also lost out — because the restaurants that employed them went out of business. Another study found that minimum wage increases set to be implemented this year would cost the country roughly 261,000 jobs. A higher minimum wage may sound like a raise, but in reality it looks more like a pink slip.

Ironically, Bernie Sanders is correct in saying workers are struggling to make their paychecks cover their living expenses. This proves especially true in liberal states like Sanders’s home: Vermont.

As Ben Shapiro noted, the Out of Reach Report from the National Law Income Housing Coalition found that Vermonters must work 1.7 full-time minimum wage jobs to afford a 1-bedroom apartment. Vermont has the fifth highest shortfall between average renter wage and two-bedroom housing wage, and the state is nearly 11,000 affordable homes short of parity.

Last year, Democratic National Committee (DNC) staffers filed a lawsuit against the DNC, accusing the liberal organization of offering them only “starvation wages.” Many big government attempts to address various problems — like the minimum wage itself — actually end up creating more problems than they solve. Mike Shellenberger, a former candidate for California governor, explained how many “progressive” policies actually create the very conditions of inequality and poverty they abhor and blame Republicans for.

Shellenberger described how California “progressives” blame Republicans as a scapegoat, rather than addressing how their policies helped create the problems they deplore. Sanders promises vast programs like “Medicare-for-all” and “a living wage,” ignoring the fact that government programs instituted to achieve positive social goals often come at a heavy cost.

In this case, Disney is the scapegoat, and Sanders has continued his assault. While he gave the remarks on Saturday, the senator has published a steady stream of tweets attacking Disney and Disneyland.

Sanders said Disneyland worker conditions demonstrate a “rigged economy.”

On Wednesday, his official account published a longer video with a Disney worker who claimed her wages decreased over time. The video presented her as a victim of the heartless company.

Sanders and his allies may present these workers as victims of a heartless company, but their policies would not bring about the desired prosperity. Furthermore, the profits they decry enable the system to work, allowing business owners to invest in companies and compete on the market.

It is possible that Disneyland does pay its workers too little, although in California the high costs of things like electricity, food, and rent are driven up by liberal policies. Workers are struggling to get by. Is more government regulation truly the answer to their plight?

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