Variety Skips Disney Worker H1B Visa Replacement in Democrat Fundraiser Story

Variety reported on Monday about Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger hosting a fundraiser next week for six vulnerable Democrat senators. Although the story did point out the irony of Disney pushing for the tax cuts that every one of the senators voted against, it skipped the more controversial detail that the senators would be receiving money from a fundraiser hosted by an executive who pushed for replacing American Disney employees with H1B visa foreign workers. 

First let us go to the irony of a tax cut supporting company supporting senators who all opposed that tax cut in Bob Iger to Host Fundraiser for Vulnerable Democratic Senators in 2018 Midterms:

WASHINGTON — Walt Disney Co. chairman and CEO Bob Iger is hosting a fundraiser next week for half a dozen Democratic senators facing tough re-election bids this year.

The Feb. 22 event, which seeks the maximum contribution of $32,400 per person, also will be hosted by Alan Horn, chairman of Walt Disney Studios, and his wife Cindy Horn, a longtime environmental activist, according to an invite.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is on the bill, with the money being raised for Bill Nelson of Florida, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jon Tester of Montana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

Those six senators face re-election this year and all come from states won by Donald Trump in 2016. They have formed a joint fundraising committee called Senate 2018 IMPACT.

Iger has hosted or co-hosted many events for Democrats in the past, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. His support for the Democratic candidates reflects how personal politics can diverge from corporate lobbying, as all of the senators voted against the recently passed tax reform bill.

Disney and other studios pushed for the lowering of the corporate tax rate, which ultimately was dropped to 21% from 35%. Last month Iger announced $1,000 cash bonuses to each of its 125,000 employees, in addition to the launch of a new education initiative. Other companies, like AT&T and Comcast, also announced bonuses after the passage of the tax bill.

One would hope that a curious member of the press would ask Disney executives why are supporting senators who voted against the tax cuts that Disney and other companies supported. However, an even more important question to ask of those senators themselves is why are they accepting money raised by a company that tried to replace their American employees with foreign H1B visa workers. Computerworld covered that employment replacement controversy in April 2015 in Fury rises at Disney over use of foreign workers:

At the end of October, IT employees at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts were called one by one into conference rooms to receive notice of their layoffs. Multiple conference rooms had been set aside for this purpose, and in each room an executive read from a script informing the worker that their last day would be Jan. 30, 2015.

Some workers left the rooms crying; others appeared shocked. This went on all day. As each employee received a call to go to a conference room, others in the office looked up sometimes with pained expressions. One IT worker recalls a co-worker mouthing "no" as he walked by on the way to a conference room.

What follows is a story of competing narratives about the restructuring of Disney's global IT operations of its parks and resorts division. But the focus is on the role of H-1B workers. Use of visa workers in a layoff is a public policy issue, particularly for Disney.

Disney CEO Bob Iger is one of eight co-chairs of the Partnership for a New American Economy, a leading group advocating for an increase in the H-1B visa cap. Last Friday, this partnership was a sponsor of an H-1B briefing at the U.S. Capitol for congressional staffers. The briefing was closed to the press.

So Iger is an advocate for increasing H1B visa workers. Disney claimed those workers were to "complement" not to displace American workers. However, those "complemented" American workers had a different view of the situation:

From the perspective of five laid-off Disney IT workers, all of whom agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity, Disney cut well-paid and longtime staff members, some who had been previously singled out for excellence, as it shifted work to contractors. These contractors used foreign labor, mostly from India. The laid-off workers believe the primary motivation behind Disney's action was cost-cutting.

It will be interesting to see if those six Democrat senators will accept funds raised by a company that cut American jobs in favor of contracted H1B visa foreign workers. Which journalist will ask the senators about this? How about you, Jake Tapper? Or perhaps another Jake, Jake Novak of CNBC, will make the inquiry.


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