The Burbank-based Walt Disney Co. was dealing with more fallout Tuesday from its response to a Florida bill that would restrict school instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades, with some LGBTQ employees calling for a week of worker walkouts in protest.
A letter attributed to “members of the LGBTQIA+ community” across Disney and Disney-owned entities said the company’s response to the Parental Rights in Education Bill “utterly failed to match the magnitude of the threat to LGBTQIA+ safety represented by this legislation.”
“Primarily, those statements have indicated that leadership still does not truly understand the impact this legislation is having not only on cast members in the state of Florida, but on all members of the LGBTQIA+ community in the company and beyond,” the letter states.
The employees established a website that outlines plans for worker walkouts at Disney sites across the country throughout the week, culminating in a “full stage walkout” on March 22.
It was unclear how many workers planned to take part in the proposed walkouts.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek has come under fire from critics over the company’s initial silence on the proposed Florida legislation, which has been dubbed by the LGBTQ+ community as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Chapek last week issued a statement amounting to an apology to the LGBTQ+ community, acknowledging the “pain, frustration and sadness over the company’s response” to the bill.
“Speaking to you, reading your messages, and meeting with you have helped me better understand how painful our silence was,” Chapek said in the statement. “It is clear that this is not just an issue about a bill in Florida, but instead yet another challenge to basic human rights. You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I am sorry.”
He said the company was immediately “increasing our support for advocacy groups to combat similar legislation in other states,” and announced that Disney was “pausing all political donations in the state of Florida.”
“I truly believe we are an infinitely better and stronger company because of our LGBTQ+ community,” Chapek wrote. “I missed the mark in this case but am an ally you can count on — and I will be an outspoken champion for the protections, visibility, and opportunity you deserve.”
The employees organizing the proposed walkouts also noted that Disney is in the process of moving roughly 2,000 workers from California to a new facility in Florida — home to the Walt Disney World resort.
“We stand in solidarity with our colleagues in Florida, who will be directly harmed by this new law and yet still required to perform their duties for a company that not only failed to prevent, but also tacitly funded it,” according to the group’s letter. “This becomes especially concerning when you consider that TWDC is requiring even more employees to work and live in Florida, making even more cast members targets for this hateful law.”
Over the weekend, Gov. Gavin Newsom took to Twitter to suggest Disney reconsider its plans to move jobs from California to Florida.
“Disney, the door is open to bring those jobs back to California — the state that actually represents the values of your workers,” Newsom wrote.
Disney announced last year plans to move the workers to Florida, saying they would be based at a new facility near Orlando International Airport, about 20 miles east of the Walt Disney World resort.
Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has defended the pending legislation, saying this week it “showed a commitment to education, not to indoctrination.”
“As the parent of three kids that are aged 5 and under, thank you for letting me and my wife be able to send our kids to kindergarten without them being sexualized,” he said.