Walt Disney Co. employees at businesses across the United States plan to get up from their desks and walk to the exits Tuesday to protest CEO Bob Chapek’s response to Florida law, which LGBTQ advocates have dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” – the bill.
LGBTQ workers and allies are expected to attend a general strike in offices in California, Florida and elsewhere, a group of employees announced last week on a website calling Chapek by name.
In recent weeks, Chapek has come under intense internal criticism and public scrutiny for not taking a more forceful stance against HB 1557, a bill that would ban instruction on “sexual orientation or gender identity” in kindergarten through third grade in Florida. .
Chapek received sharp criticism for saying in a company-wide memo on March 7 that the company can make the “biggest impact” by “creating a more inclusive world through the inspiring content we produce.”
The company’s stance on the bill seemed particularly annoying to some of the tens of thousands of Disney employees in Florida, home to the sprawling theme park and resort of Walt Disney World in Orlando.
Chapek, who ascended the throne of the Magic Kingdom in 2020, apologized directly to employees in a letter released on March 11th.
“Clearly, this is not just a matter of a bill in Florida, but instead another challenge to fundamental human rights. You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights, and I failed you. said Chapek. in the letter. “I’m sorry.”
He also announced that the company would stop all donations to elected officials in Florida.
But the letter did not end the call.
LGBTQ staff began making plans for a series of protests during the breaks, which culminated in a general strike on Tuesday. They announced their plans on a website (whereischapek.com) and an Instagram account called disney_walkout.
“Recent statements and lack of action by TWDC [The Walt Disney Co.] “Leadership regarding the ‘Don’t Say Gay or Trans’ bill has completely failed to match the scale of the threat to LGBTQIA + security represented by this legislation,” said staff.
“We have been forced into an impossible and unsustainable position. We must now take steps to convince TWDC to protect employees and their families in the face of such open and unjustified bigotry.”
Chapek sought to rectify the situation in a virtual town hall on Monday, according to The Wall Street Journal, telling staff he and other top executives were “determined to use this moment as a catalyst for more meaningful and lasting change.”
The journal, which quoted people attending the event, reported that Chapek said he and other senior executives would take on a global listening tour with staff.
Disney did not respond to a request for comment on the absence.
The race underscores a new reality for corporate titans, especially in the media and entertainment industries: Employees are increasingly not afraid to push back against policies they see as offensive or wrong.
We have been forced into an impossible and unsustainable position.
– Statement from Disney employees planning a strike on Tuesday
The setback has also posed a PR crisis for Chapek, which is trying to navigate the company through the streaming revolution with Disney + and other digital ventures.
Bob Iger, Chapek’s predecessor, came out against Florida’s law on parental rights in education on February 24 – weeks before Chapek apologized.
The employees behind the strike did not immediately respond to a list of emailed questions about their plans, including whether they plan to pressure the company to take a stand against a similar “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Georgia, a central production center for Hollywood.
Walkout organizers are separated from the various resource groups for business employees (BERGs, in corporate language) and Disney-sponsored Pride organizations.
Florida Republican lawmakers who supported the bill have argued that parents – not teachers – should be the ones talking to children about sexuality and gender issues.
Democrats argue the bill demonizes LGBTQ people and effectively prevents students from talking freely about sexual orientation and gender identity. President Joe Biden called the bill “hateful.”
The measure has passed both houses of the Legislative Assembly and now goes to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has expressed support for it.
The dismissal is expected to begin at 11 a.m. ET on Tuesday, according to a schedule on the employee-created website.