Employees of The Walt Disney Company are walking off the job to protest Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill and the company’s response to protect LGBT+ workers and their families.
The daily walkouts this month culminated in an all-day labor protest on March 22, calling on Disney to indefinitely suspend all political donations to state officials who created or helped pass the measure, which , say opponents, will marginalize and endanger the lives of LGBT+ youth in Florida schools.
Protesting workers – at ESPN, Marvel, Pixar and other Disney-owned entities – have called on Disney executives to publicly commit to an action plan that protects employees from anti-LGBT+ legislation , among other demands urging the company to step up its support for LGBT+ people and their families.
Disney — the state’s largest private employer and a state political heavyweight — has faced weeks of pressure from Disney employees and LGBT+ advocates urging executives to leverage the massive corporate influence to publicly lobby against the bill.
“Disney can and should use its influence to be an ally and defend the human rights of Floridians, its employees and their families,” the protesting workers said in a statement on social media on Tuesday. “Today, we stand with all Disney employees who show solidarity for human rights, including those of our [LGBT+] relatives. Today, and every day, we support securing schools and workplaces – and a society – for all marginalized communities. »
Following reports from The Independent and other news outlets revealing that Disney had donated tens of thousands of dollars to Republican lawmakers and state officials who supported the bill, Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced that the company ” suspended” all political donations in the state.
“Talking to you, reading your messages and meeting you have helped me better understand how painful our silence was,” he said in a March 11 statement. “You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I apologize.”
In a conference call with workers Monday evening, he told employees that Disney management is “committed to using this moment as a catalyst for more meaningful and lasting change,” according to the the wall street journalwhich reported that Mr. Chapek and other high-level Disney staff will be taking part in a global employee listening tour.
The ‘Parental Rights in Education’ bill – dubbed ‘Don’t Say Gay’ by its opponents – prohibits classroom teaching of ‘sexual orientation or gender identity’ from kindergarten through third grade and any such discussion “that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate” in other grades.
Mr. Chapek’s remarks and the company’s statements “completely fail to match the magnitude of the threat to LGBTQIA+ safety posed by this legislation,” according to a statement from the protesting workers.
“As a community, we have been forced into an impossible and unsustainable position,” they wrote. “We must now act to convince [Disney] to protect employees and their families from such open and shameless bigotry.
Disney has repeatedly touted its LGBT+ advocacy and annual placement on the Human Rights Campaign’s “Best Workplaces” for LGBT+ people, but The IndependentState review of campaign finance records found Disney entities donated tens of thousands of dollars to Florida lawmakers who supported the bill, including at least $4,000 for campaigns 2022 re-election campaign for the bill’s main sponsors, State Representative Joe Harding and State Senator. Dennis Baxley.
Disney also donated at least $50,000 to a political action committee linked to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2021.
Following Mr. Chapek’s public statements opposing the bill, Governor DeSantis and members of his administration lambasted the company and “woke business up.”
Disney employees “know that companies like Disney have a real role to play in fighting discriminatory legislation,” Human Rights Campaign Acting President Joni Madison said in a statement.
The Independent asked Disney for comment.