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Disney Workers Staging Series of Walkouts Over 'Don't Say Gay' Bill

Disney protest

Employees at the Walt Disney Co. are staging a series of walkouts over the company’s lack of action on Florida’s “don’t say gay” bill.

“The recent statements by The Walt Disney Company (TWDC) leadership regarding the Florida legislature’s recent ‘Don’t Say Gay or Trans’ bill have utterly failed to match the magnitude of the threat to LGBTQIA+ safety represented by this legislation,” says a statement on an employee website not affiliated with Disney LGBTQ+ resource groups. The site is titled Where Is Chapek, a reference to Disney CEO Bob Chapek.

Chapek apologized Friday for the company’s slow response to the bill and promised to pause political contributions, which have gone to many of the measure’s supporters. The bill has been passed by both houses of the Florida legislature and is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis. It would ban classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-3 and stipulate that any instruction in higher grades be “age-appropriate,” language that opponents say is too vague and threatens to further marginalize LGBTQ+ students and staff.

Walkouts that take place during employees’ 15-minute breaks began Tuesday and will continue through next Monday. Organizers are planning a full-day walkout for next Tuesday at Disney locations in Florida, California, and elsewhere. They warn that employees are not protected against discipline over the full-day action, unlike the break-time walkouts. “Take your own situation into account before choosing to participate,” the site says.

The organizers are making several demands of the company. They include not just a pause on campaign donations but an immediate stop to contributions to any of the bill’s supporters, including DeSantis; ceasing investments in Florida until anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is repealed; reaffirming the company’s commitment to protecting and advocating for LGBTQ+ workers; contributing to the Trevor Project, Trans Life, and other activist groups; and creating an LGBTQ+ brand.

Tuesday's walkout is the same day as one of the company's “reimagine tomorrow” event. Disney leadership scheduled the event for March 2, according to CNBC. The company hosts these gatherings monthly. They cover current issues, and the one next week is called “LGBTQ+ Employees, Leaders and Allies Get Disney Real.”

Invitations to the virtual event went out on Thursday morning, the outlet reports. It reads: “Employees can expect an honest conversation addressing the following: How does the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill and other pending legislation impact LGBTQ+ kids and families? Why have LGBTQ+BERG leaders and allies organized internally to hold the company accountable? What will it take to rebuild trust with our employees and LGBTQ+ communities?”

Disney is Florida’s largest private-sector employer; there were 75,000 workers at Disney World near Orlando before the pandemic, the Associated Press notes.

The Advocate reached out to Disney for comment about the walkouts, but a representative for the company declined to comment on the record.

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