Bob Iger, the chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Company, says that the country’s most influential businesses have a duty to effect social change and fill in the gaps of public policy. “I do think companies, particularly large companies, have an obligation to try to solve some of these problems on behalf of their employees and come up with solutions,” Iger said today in conversation with Laurene Powell Jobs at The Atlantic Festival in Washington, D.C. (Powell Jobs is the founder of the Emerson Collective, which is the majority owner of The Atlantic.)
Iger, who has considered running for president, said that as his employees’ trust in government wanes, they’ve turned to Disney to take action on social and political issues. “Because they feel that they’ve been failed by other entities, they’re expecting their company to step up,” he said. “Maybe rightfully so.”
Disney isn’t the only company to face this kind of pressure from its employees. As my colleague Ellen Cushing has written, workers at Microsoft, Salesforce, Google, and Amazon have all pressured their employers—in the past year alone—to reconsider government contracts that employees view as unethical.
Last year, Disney committed to paying for its U.S. hourly employees’ education, a benefit Iger said almost 9,000 workers had already cashed in on. “I don’t know of anything we’ve done that has resonated more than this,” he said. Also in 2018, Disney struck a deal with unions representing workers at its parks in Orlando, Florida, and Anaheim, California, to raise their minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021, though its merger with 21st Century Fox earlier this year is expected to result in thousands of layoffs. Iger, meanwhile, was the third-best-paid CEO of a public company in 2018, making more than Apple’s Tim Cook and SoftBank’s Nikesh Arora.