Disney’s Bob Iger Seeks to Mend Fences on Strike, Is ‘Personally Committed’ to Resolving Labor Dispute

CEO says “nothing is more important” than its relationship with Hollywood’s creative talent

Protester With Sign Mocking Disney CEO Bob Iger, Aug. 9, 2023, Netflix HQ in LA
A protester carries a sign mocking Disney CEO Bob Iger on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023, at Netflix headquarters in Los Angeles. (Photo: Raquel "Rocky" Harris/TheWrap)

Disney CEO Bob Iger extended an olive branch to writers and actors on the picket lines during his earnings call on Wednesday, nearly a month after drawing their ire by saying that Hollywood’s striking unions were making demands that were “not realistic.”

“Nothing is more important to this company and its relationships with the creative community. and that includes actors, writers, animators, directors and producers,” Iger said. “I have deep respect and appreciation for all those who are vital to the extraordinary creative engine that drives this company and our industry.”

“It is my fervent hope that we quickly find solutions to the issues that have kept us apart these past few months, and I am personally committed to working to achieve this result,” he added.

On July 13, just prior to SAG-AFTRA’s announcement of its first film and TV strike since 1980, Iger told CNBC at the Sun Valley Conference that he found the strikes “disturbing” and said that they would do more damage to an entertainment industry that was still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s a level of expectation that they have that is just not realistic and they are adding to a set of challenges that this business is already facing that is quite frankly very disruptive and dangerous,” Iger said.

After Iger’s comments, hundreds of SAG-AFTRA members joined already striking writers on the picket lines outside of Disney’s Burbank studio lot, with many carrying signs referencing Iger’s comments.

“For him to have the nerve to say that our asks are unreasonable and what the writers are asking is unreasonable when we know the salaries of these CEOs… I’m telling you it was like pouring gasoline on a fire,” SAG-AFTRA member Heather Dowling told TheWrap.

Iger’s more conciliatory comments in Disney’s earnings call echo those of some of his fellow studio CEOs like Warner Bros. Discovery chief David Zaslav, who last week said that he was looking for a “good faith” resolution to the strikes.

“We’re in the business of storytelling…We cannot do any of that without the entirety of the creative community,” Zaslav said. “We’re hopeful that all sides will get back to the negotiating room soon and that these strikes get resolved in a way that the writers and actors feel they are fairly compensated and their efforts and contributions are fully valued.”

The studios’ labor representatives, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, said in a statement sent out last week that “our only playbook is getting people back to work,” but has also released documents outlining its key disagreements with the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA on its labor contract proposals.

Among the key sticking points are the WGA’s proposal for minimum staffing requirements for streaming shows, which the AMPTP says is too inflexible; and SAG-AFTRA’s proposal for compensation based on streaming data, which the AMPTP called a “one-size-fits-all approach that ignores the relationship between program suppliers and exhibitors.”

“Under the [SAG-AFTRA] proposal, performers would be entitled to receive not
only the existing fixed residual – which is paid to the performer even if no one is watching the program – but also a new residual which ‘shares’ in revenue that is somehow attributed to the show,” the AMPTP said last month. “The Union proposes to ‘share’ in success, but not in failure. That is not sharing.”

For all of TheWrap’s WGA strike coverage, click here.