Disney LGBTQ+ staff members and their allies staged a series of walkouts, which are set to culminate in an all-day walkout Tuesday beginning at 8 a.m.
The protests center on Disney’s response to Florida’s proposed parental rights in education bill. Dubbed by opponents as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, it would restrict discussions in schools around sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill has passed the Florida Legislature and Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to sign it.
Following employee outrage, Disney said it would suspend donations to all Florida politicians as it conducts a review of its political donations. Critics have argued that the company hasn’t done enough to oppose the legislation and didn’t do it soon enough, with criticism centering on Disney CEO Bob Chapek in particular.
“Recent statements and inaction by [The Walt Disney Company] leaders regarding the ‘Don’t Say Gay or Trans’ bill have completely failed to match the magnitude of the threat to LGBTQIA+ safety posed by this legislation,” organizers wrote on their website, WhereIsChapek.com.
One of the reasons employees on both coasts are outraged is that Disney plans to move 2,000 jobs from California to Florida, including theme parks division staff who don’t work directly at Disneyland parks. . This includes Disney Imagineers.
The “Disney Do Better Walkout” campaign posted demands in six areas:
- A more targeted end to political donations for politicians involved in the creation or passage of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, including DeSantis, as opposed to the current “pause” on donations to all politicians in Florida.
- A plan to protect employees from “hate legislation,” including halting construction and investment in Florida until the legislation is repealed, not moving employees to Florida, and ensuring employees will not be fired for refusing to move to Florida.
- A reaffirmation of the company’s commitment to protect and defend LGBTQ+ personnel, including where there is political risk in doing so.
- Substantial contributions to the Trevor Project and other human rights groups as a sign of accountability for what these employees say is a failure to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ children and their families.
- An overview of how the company will expand its catalog to represent LGBTQ+ people, as well as transparent reporting on its methods of including the LGBTQ+ community in content creation (both at the start and throughout the process) ).
- The creation of an LGBTQ+ brand similar to “The Onyx Collective” (a Hulu initiative promoting black creators) focused on LGBTQ+ creators and underrepresented voices.
Smaller-scale walkouts began on Tuesday, March 15 with daily actions scheduled during employees’ 15-minute afternoon breaks. As organizers noted, staff are free to take part in these protests during their breaks, but they will not be legally protected if they choose to participate in Tuesday’s one-day walkout.
“Consider your own circumstances before choosing to participate,” the organizers wrote on their site.
Chapek reportedly told employees at a town hall on Monday that the company erred in not taking a public stand against the Florida law before it was passed by the state legislature, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The controversy surrounding the Florida law is just one of the biggest issues currently facing Disney. Others include: having to apologize after a Texas high school drill crew used racist cheering and appropriated Native American culture during a performance at Disney World; Shutdown of Shanghai Disney due to COVID-19 outbreak in China; and the controversy around the company not getting an Oscar ticket for Rachel Zegler – despite being one of the lead actresses in her Best Picture nominee West Side Story.
These events have all placed Chapek under increased scrutiny, following other unpopular decisions including major price increases and structural changes at Disney parks. Chapek previously led the Parks division before being named successor to former CEO Bob Iger.
Disney divisions, including Marvel Studios and Pixar, have issued statements calling for “Don’t Say Gay” legislation. ESPN staff were among those who joined the protests, including hosts drawing attention to the issue on the shows.
Today at the NCAA Women’s Tournament, ESPN’s Carolyn Peck and Courtney Lyle went silent for two minutes in opposition to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
“There are bigger things than basketball… Our LGBTQIA+ teammates at Disney have asked for our solidarity and support.” pic.twitter.com/d0xISZvNUh
— The Alt Recount (@therecountalt) March 18, 2022
The organizers of the walkout released a list of statements from employees expressing their frustrations. They also published an open petition/letter written in partnership with members of the LGBTQ+ community at Disney Corporate, Disney Television Animation, Lucasfilm, Pixar, Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution, Disney Streaming, Enterprise Finance, Enterprise Technology/Global Information Security, Bento Box, and Disney Animation Studios.
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