May 29, 2012

Family Friendly? Disney Funds Lobbyists Fighting to Deny Americans Parental Leave

Family Friendly? Disney Funds Lobbyists Fighting to Deny Americans Parental Leave
Walt Disney claims it is a family-friendly company...but is it putting profits first?

There are few corporations that have worked as hard over the years to cultivate a family-friendly image as The Walt Disney Company.

Disney operates a television channel, theme park, releases movies, manufactures toys, and in general tries to court American families with its advertising and public relations campaigns.

But being pro-family isn’t just about releasing feel-good movies and toys. It’s also about supporting policies that allow parents to have time off to be with their children and have stable families.

Unfortunately, out of 178 nations examined in a recent study, the United States is one of four that does not mandate paid parental leave. (The others are Lesotho, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea.)

There are some states that have gone ahead and enacted limited parental leave policies. California is one of these, enacting its paid parental leave program in 2004.

One of the major critics of the paid leave policy is the California Chamber of Commerce, a group funded and operated by Big Business in the state. Here’s Chamber staffer Jennifer Barrera complaining about the program last year:

Chamber of Commerce policy advocate Jennifer Barrera said the leave program – combined with other policies – “creates a significant administrative burden on employers, increases costs, and minimizes the ability of companies to expand hiring and create new jobs.”

It’s not unusual to see Big Business complain about policies that hurt its profits, even if these policies benefit families. But it may be shocking for many to learn that none other than the Walt Disney Company is part of the Chamber’s senior leadership in the state. Anne Buettner, Senior Vice President of Corporate Tax, is the Second Vice Chair of the organization.

Although the Chamber does not disclose its donors, it’s also likely that Walt Disney is funding the organization, and, as a result, its advocacy and lobbying efforts. So remember that the next time you take your family to see a Disney film, you may just be underwriting a lobbying effort aimed squarely at your ability to have children and spend the time with them that they deserve.