If Bob Chapek and the rest of the Disney brass thought his March 11 apology over the House of Mouse’s fumbling response to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation would placate the outrage among their own staff, they should perhaps think again.
“Due to the lack of compassion and advocacy, TWDC’s LGBTQIA+ community and their allies are determined to take a stand via multiple direct actions, including both virtual and in-person protests – the first of which will take place on Tuesday, March 15th,” said an open letter from a self-described “Disney Employee” posted online and on social media Monday (read it here).
“The recent statements by The Walt Disney Company (TWDC) leadership regarding the Florida legislature’s recent ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill have utterly failed to match the magnitude of the threat to LGBTQIA+ safety represented by this legislation,” the posting went on to say after what was described to Deadline on March 11 as the “worst week” at the media giant as Chapek seemed to stumble through his first political stance test since taking over as CEO in 2020.
Strikingly reminiscent of the response of many Netflix’s employees’ to the anti-Trans barbs in Dave Chappelle’s The Closer last year, the intended walkouts are supposed to start today from 3-3:15 p.m. and continue daily at the same time in each staffer’s respective time zone until March 21. On March 22, a full-scale walkout is set to take place.
Right now, the majority of Disney non-theme park employees still working from home or on a set due to Covid-19 safety protocols, so don’t expect to see much of a crowd outside the gates in Burbank, at least not today.
An affiliated website called WhereIsChapek.com also had a warning for employees at the Magic Kingdom.
“You are protected to act while on break for the daily break walkouts, but the full scale walkout that will take place on Tuesday March 22nd is not a legally protected action,” the site noted. “Take your own situation into account before choosing to participate.”
Disney did not comment on the situation when contact by Deadline today.
The walkout correspondence claims to be in “partnership with members of the LGBTQIA+ community across Disney Corporate, Disney Television Animation, Lucasfilm, Pixar, Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution, Disney Streaming, Enterprise Finance, Enterprise Technology/Global Information Security, Bento Box.”
However, internally, things were a little bit more complex.
“The Pride Advisory Group would like to address the potential walkout being communicated about in the Pride Slack channels that is slated to happen starting today and, potentially, escalating into next week,” said a post this morning on company’s the LGBTQ slack channel. “We have not organized this walkout nor the accompanying list of demands and we neither endorse nor condemn these actions.”
Starting with his quickly-condemned bureaucratic March 7 memo denouncing “corporate statements” for doing “very little to change outcomes or minds” and then trying to punt at the March 9 shareholders meeting, ex-theme park chief Chapek tried to reroute at the end of a long and painful week with an apology and pledge to take up the discriminatory legislation with the powers that be in the Sunshine State. “You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down,” he bluntly told staffers in an internal email.
The betrayal of the LGBTQIA+ community both inside and outside Disney may prove harder to set right than saying sorry. On March 9, the Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization, announced it will not accept any more funding from Disney without a greater commitment to LGBTQ+ rights.
Though Disney is Florida’s largest single employer, the time may now be past to hit the brakes on Gov. Ron DeSantis signing the bill that effectively bans virtually all discussion or teaching about the LGBTQ+ community and “sexual orientation or gender identity” in the state’s public school system from kindergarten to the 3rd Grade.
Looking at a potential 2024 White House run, DeSantis has now made staring down Disney his latest wedge issue.
“You have companies, like at Disney, that are going to say and criticize parents’ rights,” the first-term Governor exclaimed at a rally last week. “They’re going to criticize the fact that we don’t want transgenderism in kindergarten and first grade classrooms. If that’s the hill they’re going to die on, then how do they possibly explain lining their pockets with their relationship from the Communist Party of China?”
Chapek, for his part, has promised a discussion with employees at Disney’s Reimagine Tomorrow Summit on April 14.
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