Hulu, Disney+, National Geographic, FX, and Disney Parks are among the major Walt Disney Co. divisions sharing public statements on their official social media channels Tuesday expressing solidarity with their LGBTQ employees and denouncing anti-LGBTQ legislation.
The responses follow a series of virtual walkouts last week sponsored by Disney employees and arrive the same day as organizers invited employees across the company’s various arms to physically walkout in protest of its initial public silence on Florida’s HB 1557, the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, and demand more from Disney to stop the legislation’s passing. That includes LGBTQ employees and allies at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Disney+, ABC Network, FOX, ESPN, National Geographic, Hulu, Walt Disney Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Studios, Searchlight Pictures and more.
The Disney walkouts are the latest example of rank-and-file workers agitating over their employers’ political stances. The country’s divisive political climate has repeatedly put corporations in the middle of a tug-of-war between outraged factions of employees, customers, and investors. For people directly affected by a bill or debate, a company’s position may come as a personal affront. But even for those who aren’t the protests and divisions may mean considering politics the next time they decide where to shop, which streaming service to pay for or even where to take a vacation.
Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill, which opponents refer to as the Don’t Say Gay bill, would ban classroom instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity from kindergarten to third grade and prohibit the same for older students if the instruction fails to be “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate.” Florida’s legislature approved the bill earlier this month, and Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign it into law.
Disney initially took no public stance, then later said it advocated against the legislation behind the scenes. After the bill passed, the company took an official position against the bill, and CEO Bob Chapek apologized to employees on March 11 for failing to be a stronger ally.
“While we certainly appreciate Bob Chapek’s apology note, there is still more work to be done,” organizers wrote in an open letter last week. The letter also said Disney leadership “utterly failed” to appreciate the magnitude of the bill and the effect of the legislation on Disney workers in Florida and beyond.
Disney walkout organizers have asked participants to stop working from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. in their own time zones on Tuesday, or from the start to the end of their shifts. At 11 a.m. PT/2 p.m. ET, organizers have slated a “social media storm” to coordinate posts of support. Disney World, based outside Orlando, is a massive resort that includes four theme parks, two water parks, dozens of hotels, golf courses, retail stores and entertainment venues. Tens of thousands of employees welcome tens of millions of visitors every year.
Walkouts by Disney workers at public venues like its parks would be visible, but many of the company’s office employees are still working remotely, which may make it difficult to gauge the scope of the protest.
Earlier this year, Spotify workers pushed back against the streaming service’s support of podcaster Joe Rogan, and last year Netflix employees staged walkouts over Dave Chappelle’s comedy special that critics called transphobic. Workers at Apple, Google and Amazon have organized against their companies’ culture, privacy policies and other issues.