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Disney workers at LGBTQ pride parade

Employees of the Walt Disney Company march in the 48th annual Los Angeles Pride Parade on June 10, 2018. (Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)

Disney Workers Walk Out Over Company's Silence on "Don't Say Gay" Bill

"Our community will not sit silently while Disney fails in its obligations to advocate for employees... profits off our labor, and boasts of record profits."

Julia Conley

Demanding the Walt Disney Company use its considerable influence in Florida to stop the state's so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill from going into effect, workers at the company are staging walkouts this week with plans to launch a full-scale nationwide work stoppage next Tuesday.

The "Disney Do Better Walkout" is being organized by the company's LGBTQIA+ community and allies, who warned in an open letter this week that CEO Bob Chapek's response to the legislation has "utterly failed to match the magnitude of the [bill's] threat to LGBTQIA+ safety."

"We must now take action to convince TWDC to protect employees and their families in the face of such open and unapologetic bigotry."

The bill—which is officially called the Parental Rights in Education Act and which Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis reportedly intends to sign—bars discussion of "sexual orientation or gender identity" in kindergarten through third grade in public schools, a measure which would keep young children "from talking about their own lives and would deny their very existence," according to the ACLU of Florida.

Chapek denounced the legislation in an internal message to employees last week, but said making a public statement against the bill would "further divide and inflame" and would not "change outcomes or minds."

Organizers of the walkout argue that the company, as a major political donor and the largest private employer in Florida, could do a considerable amount to stop DeSantis from signing the bill.

"By supporting the politicians who brought this legislation and not taking a public stand against it, Chapek and TWDC [the Walt Disney Company] leadership have made it clear they are more than willing to sacrifice their employees' health and wellness in service of the bottom line. We will not stand for this anymore," wrote the employees.

"Our community will not sit silently while TWDC fails in its obligations to advocate for employees it claims to support with 'unwavering commitment,' profits off our labor, and boasts of record profits it has used to fund politicians who legislate unsafe schools for our youth."

On social media, the workers accused Chapek of attempting to support politicians on "both sides" of the issue of LGBTQIA+ rights "for political capital," the supposed benefit of which "pales in comparison to the work our community offers to the company."

The workers are calling on Chapek and the company to immediately and indefinitely cease all donations to DeSantis as well as state legislators who were instrumental in passing the bill. The company has given $106,809.38 to DeSantis's political action committee and thousands of dollars to state senators who pushed the legislation.

Other demands include that the Walt Disney Company:

  • Publicly commit to an actionable plan that protects employees from hateful legislation;
  • Commit to full transparency into political and organizational contributions; and
  • Make substantial contributions to The Trevor Project, Trans Lifeline, and other human rights advocacy groups in an effort to regain employees' trust.

The organizers laid out their demands at a website they set up called WhereIsChapek.com, where they also included details about the walkouts.

Workers are set to walk out during their 15-minute breaks on Thursday, Friday, and Monday before taking part in the full-scale walkout from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on March 22. Walkouts also took place on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

"As a community, we have been forced into an impossible and unsustainable position," said the organizers. "We must now take action to convince TWDC to protect employees and their families in the face of such open and unapologetic bigotry."


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