Disney Employees Walk
The Disney Walkout planned by employees in Florida and California got underway Tuesday as workers at the media giant continue protests against Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill and Disney’s response to the legislation.
Tuesday’s walkout was the culmination of a week of staggered walkouts across various Disney-owned brands after Disney CEO Bob Chapek’s tepid response after Disney was found to have donated to key Florida lawmakers that sponsored and supported the Parental Rights in Education bill, including Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Images on social media showed a large group of Disney employees in Burbank, CA walking out as part of the action. Employees that work remotely were encouraged to show solidarity through work stoppages and sharing supportive messages via social media and employee Slack channels. “As a community, we have been forced into an impossible and unsustainable position,” read a statement from Disney workers. “We must now take action to convince [Disney] to protect employees and their families in the face of such open and unapologetic bigotry.”
Disney Do Better
Workers organized the action under the name “Disney Do Better” and presented a list of demands for the company and shared employee statements of support on the website WhereIsChapek.com. Among the demands were calls on Disney to “immediately and indefinitely cease all campaign donations” that played a role in writing or passing the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, stop construction and investment in Florida until “hateful legislation is repealed,” end efforts to move employees to Florida and guarantee denying relocation to Florida will not cause any employee to lose their job with the company.
“Silence is supporting the abuser,” read one employee statement on the site. “This bill is just another form of abuse against the LGBTQ+ community.”
“I just want to reiterate how sad I am Disney claims inclusion then supports issues that hurt their audience,” said another. “You can’t sell pride merchandise/profit from our community and then support politicians who would see LGBTQ [people] harmed.”
Multiple Disney-owned brands, including ABC, Hulu, ESPN and Walt Disney World, released statements decrying the Florida bill and other anti-LGBTQ legislation currently advancing through state legislatures nationwide in the hours before the walkout. “We strive to create a service that reflects the world in which we live, and our hope is to be a source for inclusive, empowering and authentic stories that unite us in our shared humanity,” read a statement from Disney+.
The Disney Walkout social media accounts welcomed the show of support from the various Disney-owned brands, commenting that they “support these messages” and that LGBTQ workers “tirelessly advocated” for them as part of Tuesday’s action. “It’s an act of magic and is a true marker of how far we’ve pushed,” Disney Walkout said.
Pins For Profit Not For Pride
Beyond the workers participating in work stoppages, other Disney employees chose to wear Pride-themed Mickey Mouse pins made by Disney as a sign of solidarity. But the Disney Walkout account claimed that some of those workers informed them on Monday that they wouldn’t be allowed to wear the pins. “They want us to feel ‘safe’ but then sell our identities as brand for profit while preventing those same identities from existing in their own company,” Disney Walkout said. “This is all happening while many sectors of the company have been internally supportive of employees walking out tomorrow. Front-line workers, the most vulnerable of us, not given the respect they deserve is shameful.”
More Than About The Employees
While much of the focus of the protest action was placed on Florida conservatives that supported the bill, the Democratic Party of Florida also faced some Disney-related backlash Tuesday after invitations to the annual Leadership Blue Gala fundraiser held at Disney World were sent out by the party Monday night, hours before the walkout was set to begin.
“The messaging and timing couldn’t be any poorer,” Florida LGBTQ+ caucus leader Stephen Gaskill told NBC News. “This is the last place the Florida Democratic Party should be holding a fundraiser – especially during Pride Month … We should not be at Disney this year.”
The timing of the walkout may be too late to stop the “Don’t Say Gay” bill from going into effect. The bill passed votes in both Florida houses of congress earlier this month and DeSantis signaled that he will sign the bill into law. But the participating employees hope that Tuesday’s action will send a message to the company they work for as similar bills continue to pop up.
“This Disney Walkout is about more than us as employees,” said Disney artist Sam King. “This is about saying that [Disney] can’t work to accumulate financial power in states like Florida and then say they are powerless to stand up for human rights of its people.”