You know the saying about tyrants who lead with an iron fist in a velvet glove? We’re picturing these. On Tuesday, March 22, LGBTQIA+ Disney employees and their allies staged a walkout from various departments and products to protest the company’s donations to the Republican legislators behind Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. If signed into law, the bill will allow homophobic or transphobic parents to sue school districts if gender identity or sexual orientation is brought up in any way in K–3 classrooms. (This can include something as innocuous as referring to a student’s queer parents … or, presumably, to a gay Disney character like that iconic Onward cop.)
Disney CEO Bob Chapek apologized after initially dismissing employee concerns over the company’s GOP donations, but walkout organizers insist the company “must publicly commit to an actionable plan that protects employees from hateful legislation,” including stopping Disney’s efforts to relocate its California-based staff to Florida. “The ongoing attempts to placate the LGBTQIA+ community with subpar representation in the content produced and donations to well-meaning organizations are simply not enough. You cannot fix this with educational seminars or token background characters — even organizations like HRC refuse your money until action is taken,” reads an open letter from organizers. “As a community, we have been forced into an impossible and unsustainable position and must now take action to convince TWDC to protect employees and their families in the face of such open and unapologetic bigotry.”
On Tuesday, a CNBC reporter shared a video of “Hundreds of Disney employees walking out at company HQ in Burbank.”
And on Twitter, writers and animators posted with hashtags like #DisneyDoBetter and wrote about walking out.
Disney subsidiaries including ABC, Hulu, and ESPN tweeted in support of the LGBTQIA+ community and in opposition to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, but the @DisneyWalkout Twitter account reported yesterday that Disneyland employees “are being told they cannot even wear pride/trans Mickey pins to show support” for the protest.
Disney released a statement Tuesday morning saying, “Disney Parks, Experiences and Products is committed to creating experiences that support family values for every family, and will not stand for discrimination in any form. We oppose any legislation that infringes on basic human rights” — in which case, they should look into all the human-rights infringements that Florida’s GOP has been gunning for lately. Republicans across the country are introducing bills that put transgender minors at risk at breakneck speed. Disney could at least pay its workers enough so there doesn’t have to be a literal food bank specifically for theme-park employees.