Bob Iger, the chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company, came under heavy fire on Thursday after he told CNBC host David Fabe from the uber-rich Sun Valley Conference that striking Hollywood writers are being “unrealistic” with their demands, Variety‘s Ellise Shafer reported.
“It’s very disturbing to me. We’ve talked about disruptive forces on this business and all the challenges we’re facing, the recovery from COVID which is ongoing, it’s not completely back. This is the worst time in the world to add to that disruption,” Iger said of the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike, which the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) voted to join.
“About 160,000 television and movie actors are going on strike at midnight, joining screenwriters who walked off the job in May and setting off Hollywood’s first industrywide shutdown in 63 years,” per The New York Times. “The leaders of the union, SAG-AFTRA, approved a strike on Thursday, hours after contract talks with a group of studios broke down. Actors will be on the picket line starting on Friday.”
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Nonetheless, Iger — who according to a November 2022 analysis by Variety‘s Brent Lang “earned a total compensation of $45.9 million in 2021, up from the $21 million he earned in 2020 — exuded very limited sympathy.
“I understand any labor organization’s desire to work on behalf of its members to get the most compensation and be compensated fairly based on the value that they deliver,” Iger continued. “We managed, as an industry, to negotiate a very good deal with the directors guild that reflects the value that the directors contribute to this great business. We wanted to do the same thing with the writers, and we’d like to do the same thing with the actors. There’s a level of expectation that they have, that is just not realistic. And they are adding to the set of the challenges that this business is already facing that is, quite frankly, very disruptive.”
Iger also stated that while he understands why unions want to “get as much as they possibly can in compensation for their people,” they must “be realistic about the business environment, and what this business can deliver.”
Iger added that the strike “will have a very, very damaging effect on the whole business, and unfortunately, there’s huge collateral damage in the industry to people who are supportive services, and I could go on and on. It will affect the economy of different regions, even, because of the sheer size of the business. It’s a shame, it is really a shame.”
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Iger’s remarks were quickly — and harshly — rebuked on social media.
Human rights attorney Qasim Rashid, Esquire: “Yes—that’s how strikes work. That’s why they’re effective.”
Vice-Chair of the Latinx Writers Committee of the Writers Guild of America West Jorge Rivera: “His salary alone would cover what we’re asking to create a sustainable income for 10K writers.”
Writer-producer Bryan Behar. “This kind of patronizing, anachronistic, blame the writers while making 46 million dollars in 2021 approach exactly frames everything we’re fighting against. May be time for Iger to send his tired talking points back to the ’88 strike.”
Actor-filmmaker Siddhant Adlakh: “Lost in all the talk of Iger calling strike demands unrealistic is his statement about workers being compensated based on the value they deliver—inadvertently the strongest argument for overhaul of the studios (and capitalism in general) because the CEOs aren’t creating sh*t.”
TruthOrFiction.com Managing Editor Brooke Binkowski: “Won’t somebody please think of the suits???”
Writer David Slack: “Dude demands $45 million a year plus a golden parachute in case he fucks it all up — and we’re the ones being unrealistic? If studios making $30 billion in profit every year are really struggling, take a pay cut, Bob. Then #PayYourWriters.”
Writer/producer Susan Hurwitz ArnesonSusan Hurwitz Arneson: “Love that this interview was given at the Sun Valley Conference of billionaires where they all flew in on their private jets. Yeah, we’re the unreasonable ones for demanding fair compensation for our work.”
Actor Chris Banks: “Greed is very disturbing.”
READ MORE: TV writers flex their union power
Shafer’s article is available at this link. Lang’s is here. The New York Times’ is here.
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