Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced on Thursday that he is planning to hold a livestreamed town hall next month with workers from some of America's most profitable companies, and he wants to know whether the CEOs of these corporate giants "have the guts" to participate.
"It is beyond belief that a company like Disney, when they made $9 billion in profits last year, that you have working people who literally don't have enough money to pay their rent."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders
In four separate letters delivered on Thursday, Sanders invited Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Steve Easterbrook of McDonald's, Doug McMillon of Walmart, and Bob Iger of Disney to "sit on a panel with their own employees and explain why it's acceptable that they receive huge compensation packages while their very own workers are struggling to put food on the table."
"I hope they have the courage to do so. The invitation is sincere," Sanders said in a statement, which comes a month after an analysis of financial data found that CEO-worker pay gaps in the U.S. are as high as 5000 to 1.
I am excited to announce that on July 16 we will hold a live streamed town hall with workers from Amazon, Disney, McDonald’s and Walmart. I hope their CEOs will have the guts to sit on a panel with their own employees. https://t.co/ci3oa9Bw3N pic.twitter.com/sgzr7xVPIM
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) June 28, 2018
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At rallies across the nation in recent weeks, Sanders has repeatedly shamed Amazon, Disney, and other major companies for raking in enormous profits and government handouts while paying their employees so little that they are forced to sleep in their cars, skip meals, forgo medical care, or seek public assistance to get by.
In his town hall invitation (pdf) to Bezos—the world's richest man—Sanders wrote that he and his staff "have spoken with Amazon workers who are homeless, who are hungry, who are suffering and in pain."
"One worker said, 'I gave myself a hernia trying to hurry up and go to the bathroom within one minute and 30 seconds,'" Sanders notes. "Another worker said 'I am fully convinced that the success of Amazon is reaped—is actually created—by the sheer terror of pushing people to the extreme.' And 'the conditions at Amazon, you cannot be proud of. You cannot be proud of that if you're a business owner, or really just a human being.'"
Sanders' letters to the other three corporate giants featured similarly gruesome anecdotes from workers, and the Vermont senator hopes to give these employees a chance to confront the executives who are profiting from their pain.
"It is beyond belief that a company like Disney, when they made $9 billion in profits last year, that you have working people... who walk around and they're in Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse costumes, or serve food, who literally don't have enough money to pay their rent," Sanders told CNN on Thursday.
As Sanders notes in a press release, Disney "gave its CEO a $423 million compensation package" while "more than 1 out of 10 Disneyland workers report having been homeless in the past two years."
Regardless of whether the CEOs muster the courage to attend, the town hall is set to take place on July 16 in Washington, D.C., and it will be streamed online in partnership with progressive digital outlets and advocacy groups including The Young Turks, NowThis, CREDO Mobile, MoveOn.org, and Good Jobs Nation.