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Bernie Sanders Declares War on Disney Over the Minimum Wage

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.