53 episodes

Abigail has a new documentary, The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales, in which she examines the inequality crisis through the lens of the company her grandfather helped found, The Walt Disney Company. In the film, she asks how it is possible that so many workers at Disneyland, aka “the happiest place on earth,” can’t afford life's basic necessities, even when they work full time. For the fourth season of All Ears, Abigail poses that question to people who are doing the most Disney thing of all–using their imaginations–in this case to rethink capitalism. She talks with business leaders, union organizers, and economists to learn how they would fix our broken economy.

All Ears with Abigail Disney Abigail Disney

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.9 • 97 Ratings

Abigail has a new documentary, The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales, in which she examines the inequality crisis through the lens of the company her grandfather helped found, The Walt Disney Company. In the film, she asks how it is possible that so many workers at Disneyland, aka “the happiest place on earth,” can’t afford life's basic necessities, even when they work full time. For the fourth season of All Ears, Abigail poses that question to people who are doing the most Disney thing of all–using their imaginations–in this case to rethink capitalism. She talks with business leaders, union organizers, and economists to learn how they would fix our broken economy.

    Jane Fonda: Activism Saved Me

    Jane Fonda: Activism Saved Me

    Jane Fonda is a towering figure and an American legend. From Barbarella, to Klute, to 9 to 5, to her workout videos, she’s been gracing our screens for more than 50 years. And, though she may be best known for her role as an artist, surprisingly Jane says that’s not how she thinks of herself: “I consider myself, first and foremost, an activist.” And she has for quite some time.

    For the final episode of Season four, Abby talks with Jane about the power of activism– work that Jane  defines as building “people power in order to change systems that are wicked and evil.”

    In recent years, to protest government inaction on climate change and the burning of fossil fuels, Jane launched Fire Drill Fridays. On select Fridays she can be found in Washington, DC  leading thousands in civil disobedience.  She’s also working to get “climate champions” elected to office via the Jane Fonda Climate Pac.

    Jane reminds Abby that her activism started way back when she was a young actress who opposed the Vietnam War: “I was completely confused,” she admits, yet “it was hard to remain on the sidelines.” She describes the winding path she’s cut ever since.

    As the conversation proceeds, Jane and Abby bond over how both find joy in activism. Jane describes the balm it has provided in her life. “One thousand percent activism saved me,” she declares. And, though there’s a lot to be angry, or to despair about, she ends with this rhetorical question: “Do you find–because I do–that when you take action, you get less depressed?”

    You can follow Jane on Twitter @Janefonda, on Instagram @janefonda, and you can follow Jane’s climate activism on Twitter @janeclimatepac and @firedrillfridays, or you can go to janepac.com, or firedrillfridays.org.

    EPISODE LINKS
    The Village of Ben Suc (New Yorker)
    Donald W. Duncan, 79, Ex-Green Beret and Early Critic of Vietnam War, Is Dead (NY Times)
    Robert Kennedy Jr. (and Abigail Disney) Arrested While Protesting With Jane Fonda (The Hollywood Reporter)
    On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal (Naomi Klein)
    The evidence is clear: the time for action is now. We can halve emissions by 2030. (IPCC)
    CO2 Emissions in 2022 (IEA)
    Homeboy Industries (Homeboy Industries)

    • 43 min
    Michael McAfee: There is No Shame in Caring for Everyone

    Michael McAfee: There is No Shame in Caring for Everyone

    What if we thought of America’s economic inequality as design flaws of policy, rather than the result of personal failings? And what would our policies look like if we included everyone in the design process? These are the questions that drive the work of Abby’s guest this week, Dr. Michael McAfee, president and CEO of PolicyLink. PolicyLink is a venerable think tank that works to create a more inclusive economy and democracy by lifting up communities that have been purposely and systematically kept out of the American dream.

    No question things are out of whack: today around 100 million Americans–one in three–are economically insecure. That, says Michael, is a threat to our very democracy. It’s also a “wonderful opportunity” to redesign our policies–from housing, to wages, to education, to clean water.

    And though there are those in America who are working to sow seeds of division, Michael says, “there is nothing to be ashamed of in caring for everyone.” Americans, he says, “need to stop focusing on what’s wrong. We’ve overbuilt that part of our brain. What we need to do now is spend every cell that we have in our brain focused on real practical solutions that can bridge us to where we want to go.”

    Listening to Michael, it becomes clear that pragmatic optimism is his calling card: “This is an awakening moment that is painful as hell. And it's messy. And it's hurtful. There's a lot of beauty in it as well.”

    Follow Michael McAfee on Twitter @MikeMcAfee06, on Instagram @Michael.McAfee, and on LinkedIn.

    EPISODE LINKS
    The Leading Edge of Collective Impact: Designing a Just and Fair Nation for All (SSIR Magazine)
    Zip Code Destiny w/ Raj Chetty (NPR Hidden Brain)
    The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Atlantic)
    New Study Shows CA Cost-of-Living So High that $180k is New “Middle Class”
    When Private Equity Becomes Your Landlord (ProPublica)
    Twilight of the NIMBY (NY Times)
    Camp Lejeune's poisoned water has spawned thousands of claims. But victims are still waiting for closure (CNN)
    Wells Fargo to pay $3.7 billion for illegal conduct that harmed consumers (Reuters)
    More than 10-hour wait and long lines as early voting starts in Georgia | US elections 2020 (The Guardian)

    • 37 min
    Jay Coen Gilbert: Rewriting the "Source Code" for Capitalism

    Jay Coen Gilbert: Rewriting the "Source Code" for Capitalism

    In a recent New York Times op-ed, “America Is in a Disgraced Class of Its Own”, sociologist Matthew Desmond writes about the shameful amount of poverty in America, and our responsibility for it. He also writes about solutions. He points to B Corp as a beacon of light, a resource for people who want to support corporations that actually respect workers, their communities and the environment. Our guest this week, Jay Coen Gilbert, is one of B Corp’s founders. He’s also someone Abby consulted with while making her documentary, The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales. She says Jay helped her think through many complicated economic questions, especially around how to limit the power and influence of American corporations and their leaders.

    According to Abby, “Jay is the rarest of creatures—a smart businessman who knows how to run a company—but he's also unashamed to say that values matter, principles matter, and that greed is—now, are you sitting down for this?—not good.”  Over the course of the conversation, Jay explains what a B Corp is and why it may hold the potential to fundamentally change the way corporations function in our culture and our economy. In most states, the law essentially requires companies to maximize financial returns to shareholders. Profit at all costs, Jay tells Abby, has become the “source code” for modern capitalism’s operating system. B Corps, he says, are attempting to rewrite that code: “they are changing the settings” he explains, so that other “stakeholders” can be included in a company’s mission. In other words, a company’s board can pay workers a living wage, for instance, or work towards a sustainable, equitable supply chain—and not be punished by shareholders for doing so, but instead encouraged to do it. Ultimately, Jay hopes that “the settings” that B Corps are pioneering will become mandatory for companies above a certain size: “at a certain point, if you're too big to fail, you're too big to not only fail your shareholders, you're too big to fail society.”

    You can learn more about B Lab and B Corp at bcorporation.net, and you can learn more about Jay’s work to reset economic systems at imperative21.co.

    EPISODE LINKS:
    America Is in a Disgraced Class of Its Own (NY Times)
    A Friedman doctrine‐- The Social Responsibility Of Business Is to Increase Its Profits (NY Times)
    Free to Choose: A Personal Statement, by Milton Friedman and Rose D. Friedman (Goodreads)
    Untold: The Rise and Fall of And1 | Official Trailer | Netflix (Youtube)
    Patagonia 50: Purpose Over Profit (Patagonia)
    On Nespresso Controversy: Are B Corps turning against B Lab? (Fast Company)
    The legal requirement for Certified B Corporations (B Lab)

    • 37 min
    Journalist Rick Wartzman on Walmart: Good Intentions Are Not Enough

    Journalist Rick Wartzman on Walmart: Good Intentions Are Not Enough

    This week, Abby talks with business writer Rick Wartzman about what he learned while reporting his latest book: Still Broke: Walmart's Remarkable Transformation and the Limits of Socially Conscious Capitalism. Rick spent nearly three years documenting how Walmart’s directors worked to significantly improve wages and conditions for employees — and how it wasn’t nearly enough.  The book is a fascinating look at how good intentions, even from a behemoth like Walmart, are ultimately not enough to overcome the demands of Wall Street, where keeping shareholders happy, even at the expense of workers and their communities, is the name of the game.

    Rick takes Abby back to 1962, when Sam Walton, affectionately called “Mr. Sam” by his employees, opened his first store. As he grew an empire over the next several years and decades, he paid workers poorly and used cut-throat techniques, including hiring union-busting firms—the likes of which are still operating today. What was different back then, Rick explains, was that Mr. Sam not only made his workers feel like they were an important part of the enterprise, he also offered them profit sharing, which offset low wages for many.

    Sam Walton died in 1992. Rick explains how,  and why, in the years that followed, the company became a hellscape for workers and one of the most vilified companies in the world, a veritable symbol of American capitalism gone wrong. Yet by the time Rick finds himself inside Walmart in 2018, he meets executives who genuinely want to pay workers a living wage, clean up Walmart’s sustainability record, and generally improve Walmart’s public and moral standing. While Walmart has seen some success, and taken great strides, at the end of the day, Rick tells Abby, the market will not allow a company to be socially responsible. “Voluntary efforts will only take corporate America so far,” Wartzman declares, saying that his research has led him to believe that the private market can’t address these challenges on its own. “It’s not fast enough,” he says. “We need a government solution to this.” 

    Rick’s consulting company is Bendable Labs and his book is Still Broke: Walmart's Remarkable Transformation and the Limits of Socially Conscious Capitalism.

    EPISODE LINKS:
    Wal-Mart Memo Suggests Ways to Cut Employee Benefit Costs (NY Times)
    Clinton Global Initiative Panel Discussion
    Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility
    Top CEO group Business Roundtable drops shareholder primacy (Fast Company)
    Walmart raises minimum wage as retail labor market remains tight (CNBC)

    Rick’s Recommendations:
    For great data, head to the Economic Policy Institute
    To understand how living wages are calculated in your region, check out Living Wage for US and MIT’s Living Wage Calculator
    To learn more about frontline workers, visit United for Respect

    • 35 min
    Labor Leader Mary Kay Henry: Building The Most Inclusive, Racially Diverse, Female Dominated Middle Class the Nation Has Ever Seen

    Labor Leader Mary Kay Henry: Building The Most Inclusive, Racially Diverse, Female Dominated Middle Class the Nation Has Ever Seen

    If you've been paying attention, you've heard how unionization efforts are popping up all over the country, from Starbucks, Amazon and Apple; to airports, nursing homes and college campuses. Indeed, in numbers not seen in generations, American workers are fighting for higher wages, better benefits and, yes, a little more dignity on the job. This week, Abby talks about what all this portends with Mary Kay Henry, president of the nation’s second largest union, the Service Employees International Union. The SEIU currently represents about 2 million workers, including the custodians profiled in Abby’s documentary about economic inequality, The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales.

    Mary Kay tells Abby that The SEIU is committed to eliminating the kind of poverty wages that have come to define service work, especially the jobs that predominantly go to women and minorities, jobs like child care and home health assistance. Mary Kay has been at this for a long time. She started organizing in 1980, just around the time former President Ronald Reagan advanced policies that crippled union power. What kept her going during those dark years, Mary Kay  says was “the incredible courage of individual people who were willing to risk their jobs, to make things better for themselves, their families, and their coworkers.” 

    The fight is far from over. Despite some well-publicized victories for labor in recent years, and regardless of talk of how frontline workers were “essential” during the pandemic, Mary Kay tells Abby that corporate America is spending millions on union busting campaigns, vociferously fighting workers’ efforts to have a place at the bargaining table. These corporate campaigns are unacceptable, she says, and one of her goals is to change the public’s attitude toward the employers who keep unions out. Just like the Me Too Movement made sexual harassment unacceptable, Mary Kay declares: “we want to make it unacceptable to have anti-union behavior.”

    Follow Mary Kay Henry, the SEIU, and the Fight for 15 on Twitter: @MaryKayHenry, @SEIU, @fightfor15

    EPISODE LINKS:
    FightFor15
    The incredible decline of American unions, in one animated map (The Washington Post)
    The New Deal devalued home care workers. Advocates hope new legislation can undo that. (The 19th)
    ‘Working People Want Real Change’: A Union Chief Sounds Off on the Crisis (NY Times)
    Sectoral Bargaining: What It Is, How It Works, Pro and Con Debate (Investopedia)
    Thinking Sectorally (The American Prospect)
    Judge grants hold on California fast-food worker law AB 257 (Los Angeles Times)

    • 34 min
    Economist Kate Raworth: The Best Doughnuts are Conceptual

    Economist Kate Raworth: The Best Doughnuts are Conceptual

    Picture your favorite doughnut. Whether it’s chocolate glazed with sprinkles, vanilla pastry cream, red velvet, you’re inadvertently invoking one of the most important reimaginings of our economy of the last 20 years: Doughnut Economics. It posits that our economy should remain in balance with our communities and the planet, and visualizes that balance in the shape of the much beloved pastry. This theory is the brainchild of Abby’s guest this week, the brilliant, renegade economist, Professor Kate Raworth. Raworth initially set out to study economics because it is “the mother tongue of public policy.” But over time she became disillusioned with the field and its inability to see beyond markets and growth. It was working on projects to alleviate problems like poverty and climate change and also becoming a mother, that led her to find a new way to frame ideas about the very purpose of the economy and who it is meant to serve. That was 11 years ago. While Raworth has been dismissed outright by some of her more conservative colleagues, the ideas in her book, Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist, are not only shaking up conventional economic thought, they’re being put into practice. These days, communities and cities across the world—including Amsterdam, Brussels, Melbourne and Berlin—are trying to make their local economies look like a doughnut. 

    You can see the Doughnut here, check out Kate’s fun economic animations here, and learn more about her work at the Doughnut Economics Action Lab. Follow Kate on Twitter @KateRaworth.

    EPISODE LINKS
    Kate Raworth: A healthy economy should be designed to thrive, not grow (TED Ideas)
    Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps etymology
    Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (NOAA)
    Rational Economic Man (Investopedia)
    The Economist by Xenophon (Gutenberg Project)
    International Student Movement: Rethinking Economics
    Exploring Economics
    Amsterdam’s ‘doughnut economy’ puts climate ahead of GDP (PBS News Weekend)

    • 41 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
97 Ratings

97 Ratings

stromness2 ,

Love Abigail

I love her topics, her heart, and what she is working towards… more equality in the voices giving more time and space to the marginalized. Love her and her guests I’ve heard so far!

mmmmmmmiiiiih ,

Wonderful

Thankfully, I downloaded the season so far of four interviews by Abigail.
Great listening for a road trip while staying away from WiFi. The theme for me was perfect as a woman of the 1970’s, 80’s and forward. Thank You!

Fstgrl ,

One of the best!

This is one of my favorite podcasts, just discovered it. Binged the whole thing! Eagerly awaiting new episodes. Abigail is a great interviewer and has some very interesting and informative guests. I love her work!

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