Mar 22, 2022 - Economy

Disney employees walk out over response to "Don't Say Gay" bill

Photo: Alisha Jucevic/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Disney employees on Tuesday staged a daylong walkout to boycott the company's tepid response to a Florida measure that has been dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill, which would restrict discussion of LGBTQ issues in classrooms statewide.

Why it matters: Disney's initial decision to not weigh in on the bill drew outrage from employees, who argued that management's silence threatened their safety and wellbeing.

Details: The daylong walkout followed a series of scheduled smaller walkout breaks this week that were meant to demonstrate support for LGTBQ employees while demanding Disney do more to address the issue.

  • The walkout organizers representing Disney's LGBTQ community demanded in an open letter that Disney "immediately and indefinitely" cease all campaign donations to politicians involved in the creation or passage of the bill, commit to an actionable plan that protects employees from hateful legislation, and pledge to create an LGBTQIA+ brand, among other actions.

In response to the walkout, Disney said in a statement that it's "committed to creating experiences that support family values for every family, and will not stand for discrimination in any form."

  • It added that it opposes "any legislation that infringes on basic human rights, and stand in solidarity and support [with] our LGBTQIA+ Cast, Crew, and Imagineers and fans who make their voices heard today and every day."
  • Videos shared on social media suggested hundreds of employees participated in the walkout.

Many Disney brands showed solidarity in support of the parent company's LGBTQ workers with statements posted to social media Tuesday, including ESPN, Hulu and Marvel.

Catch up quick: Disney CEO Bob Chapek first defended the company's decision to refrain from speaking out publicly against the bill earlier this month, drawing widespread criticism from employees, customers and investors.

  • After a week of intense blowback, Chapek reversed course, saying the company would pause all political donations in the state of Florida and would increase its support for advocacy groups "to combat similar legislation in other states."
  • He also apologized to Disney's LGBTQ community, saying, "You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I am sorry."
  • He conceded that the bill was not just about politics, but about human rights.

The bottom line: Disney workers have grown accustomed to their leaders showing them support on progressive issues under its longtime former CEO Bob Iger.

  • Chapek, who took the reins in 2020, is learning the hard way what happens when corporate leaders — especially at a creative company — don't take a stand on thorny social issues.

Go deeper: Read more about the bill

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