Disney Employees Plan Walkout Over Controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill

Employees at Disney are planning a huge walkout protest over Disney’s stance on the controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill in Florida.

For the past few weeks, the state of Florida has deliberated a new bill that critics claim will discriminate against the LGBTQIA+ community. Unofficially dubbed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, it aims to prevent teachers from creating lesson plans that deal with LGBTQIA+ topics, such as gender identity and sexual orientation.

With Disney hosting one of its popular theme parks in Orlando, the company plays an intrinsic role in regional politics in the area. A report from Popular Information uncovers that Disney has pledged around $300,000 to members of the Florida legislature that voted for the supporters of ‘Don’t Say Gay’.

This has led to outrage from LGBTQIA+ employees at Disney, who are now planning a walkout protest in response. Ben Siemon, an animation writer at Disney, started the hashtag ‘#DisneyDoBetter’ last week, which has since seen a huge amount of traction. In a video, Siemon said: “I had a teacher that was very kind and talked to me about it, and let me know that there wasn’t anything wrong with being gay. It made a huge impact on my life.

“If the don’t say gay bill passes in Florida, that would have never happened to me.”

‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill – Disney Response

Disney CEO Bob Chapek apologised to employees for the company’s response in an internal memo that was subsequently shared by Variety. It said: “It is clear that this is not just an issue about a bill in Florida, but instead yet another challenge to basic human rights. You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I am sorry.

“We need to use our influence to promote that good by telling inclusive stories, but also by standing up for the rights of all.”

Following the memo, Disney has now ceased all political donations to the state of Florida.

Disney Don't Say Gay
Credit: Disney Do Better Walkout

However, many Disney employees still find themselves dissatisfied with the company response. An open statement from the official Disney Walkout Twitter account reads: “The recent claims by The Walt Disney Company leadership regarding the 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.

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

As of March 14th, participants of the ‘Disney Do Better Walkout’ have been participating in scheduled walkouts during 15-minute break periods. On March 22nd, a much bigger walkout is planned. This will see employees refrain from working and attending meetings throughout the whole day.

Disney is yet to comment officially on the walkout protests. It has recently halted all film releases in Russia following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Featured Image Credit: Disney/Disney Do Better

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