Disney Employees Plan Walkout Protests Over CEO Bob Chapek’s Response to ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill

Led by a group of Walt Disney Company LGBTQIA+ workers and allies, a series of protests is set through next week.
IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR AIDS HEALTHCARE FOUNDATION - A crowd at a rally at the Walt Disney Company in Burbank spearheaded by advocates from AIDS Healthcare Foundation on Thursday, March 03, 2022 in Burbank, Calif. The advocates targeted Disney in two near simultaneous rallies in Orlando and Burbank, CA to urge Disney to publicly speak out to oppose Florida's hateful, homophobic "Don't Say Gay" bill targeting LGBTQ+ youth, their families, teachers and school counselors that is currently pending in the Florida legislature. (Dan Steinberg/AP Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation)
Disney protest

Select Disney employees have planned a walkout to take action against Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek’s handling of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

Chapek was called out during the Disney annual shareholder meeting for the company donating to every politician who backed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which prohibits “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity” in Florida primary schools. Chapek issued numerous apologies for the financing of what President Biden called a “hateful” bill.

The Animation Guild and Pixar staff criticized Chapek’s full response, and Disney employees took to social media to voice their disappointment in the conglomerate.

Now, walkouts are scheduled to start March 15 and continue through March 22, culminating in a “full-scale walkout,” per new Twitter account @DisneyWalkout. The week of in-person and virtual walkouts is scheduled to occur during 15-minute break periods daily from 3 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. in respective timezones. You can also learn more at the website whereischapek.com.

“The LGBTQIA+ workers and allies at The Walt Disney Company are standing in solidarity together over the coming weeks,” an open letter written in partnership with members of the LGBTQ community across the Walt Disney Company read.

“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,” organizers continued. “Primarily, those statements have indicated that leadership still does not truly understand the impact this legislation is having not only on cast members in the state of Florida, but on all members of the LGBTQIA+ community in the company and beyond. While we certainly appreciate Bob Chapek’s apology note, there is still more work to be done in order to regain the trust of the LGBTQIA+ community and employees.”

The @DisneyWalkout account as of print has 347 followers and it is unclear how many Disney employees are expected to participate in the protests.

“As a community, we have been forced into an impossible and unsustainable position,” the letter concludes. “We must now take action to convince TWDC to protect employees and their families in the face of such open and unapologetic bigotry.”

An internal message, reported by Deadline, included the Disney Pride Advisory Group’s official response to the planned walkouts.

“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,” a post on company’s the LGBTQ Slack channel read on March 15. “We have not organized this walkout nor the accompanying list of demands and we neither endorse nor condemn these actions.”

Last October, queer employees similarly staged a walkout at Netflix over Netflix’s release of Dave Chappelle’s controversial “The Closer” special, which contained jokes many viewers deemed transphobic.

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