On one side, LGBTQ advocates and Disney employees are calling for a walkout to protest CEO Bob Chapek's slow responses in publicly criticizing Florida legislation known by opponents as the "Don't Say Gay". The legislation that is awaiting governor's signature bar instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through the third grade.
Republicans like the Governor of Texas are on the other side. Ron DeSantis, has accused the entertainment conglomerate of trying to cancel culture following a Disney decision temporarily suspending political contributions in the State. DeSantis is seen as a potential 2024 presidential candidate. He has been stoking against the Republican base on cultural war issues.
According to a Disney official there were no interruptions in operations as of Tuesday noon. Disney employed nearly three quarters of its workforce in its theme park division last October.
It was not clear how many employees would leave or what might happen to them. The union leaders representing the thousands of workers at Disney parks in Florida, California, said that they did not see any walkout momentum and advised them to keep their doors open for those who do.
Eric Clinton, president and CEO of Unite Here!, said, "I don’t want to downplay anybody’s efforts. If someone feels that what they are doing makes an impact, I don’t want to downplay their efforts." Local 362, which is comprised of custodians, housekeepers, and other Walt Disney World workers. "We're not part of that. Although we are concerned about this issue, it would be a violation of our contract.
Leon County Republican Party Chairman Evan Power said that he believes that a small minority of Disney employees are pushing this issue. DeSantis has more to lose by siding with parents who want more control of education and "sexual conversation" in the early grades.
The workers who took part in the walkout were planning to meet at the locations in Orlando, New York City, Anaheim, Burbank, California where the company is located.
Half-dozen Disney employees gathered Tuesday morning at an LGBTQ centre near Orlando to sign letters of support for queer students. "You're Amazing. The letters were placed next to a drawing showing a rainbow.
Gabe, a Walt Disney World product management manager, said, "We are creators and we felt that it was possible to be creative and productive, and write letters of encouragement for LGBTQ youth." He didn't want his name used out of fear of being identified.
Disney posted on Tuesday that it opposed "any legislation that violates basic human rights" but stood "in solidarity with LGBTQ employees who make their voices heard today"
Disney, whose films and properties have shaped generations of children all over the globe, has spoken several times about political and social issues in recent years.
It was one of the U.S. businesses that announced in January 2021 it would stop political donations to legislators who voted against President Joe Biden's electoral win. It also voiced its opposition to a Georgia anti-gay law in 2016, and threatened to withdraw its business from the state. This has been a popular choice for TV and movie studios. Georgia's former governor vetoed the bill.
Chapek was fired for speaking out on the Florida gender identity bill after it had passed the Florida Legislature.
Republican legislators pushing Florida legislation had argued parents should talk to their children about gender issues in their early years. The legislation was subject to scrutiny by Biden, who called the bill "hateful" and other Democrats who claim it demonizes LGBTQ persons. It has been sent by DeSantis to whom it is expected that he will sign it into law.
Chapek apologized for not speaking out more strongly and publicly against the bill. Disney officials worked behind-the scenes to stop it. Chapek announced that he would not accept political donations from Florida or support advocacy groups fighting similar legislation elsewhere in the state. He reiterated these points Monday during a companywide discussion.
A protester outside Walt Disney World's property was Nicholas Maldonado, a Disney employee. He was wearing a rainbow flag, holding a sign that read, "Trans rights and human rights are equal" and "#DisneyDoBetter."
Maldonado said, "Where was Chapek at the time the bill was introduced?" He had taken a day off from his job as merchandising manager at the Orlando Disney Store and while he was disappointed by Chapek’s initial response, he said that he felt Disney's leaders were starting to listen to the concerns of workers. "My thoughts are that it's totally shameful and upsetting for cast members."
Disney has been an influential figure in Florida politics for decades. She tends to support Republicans who control Tallahassee, Florida's capital city, for the past two decades. However, she is also more open to social issues than other Republicans, according Patricia Campos Medina, codirector of Cornell University's Worker Institute. She said that people were surprised they didn't want to speak out on the issue.
The organizers of the walkout claim that withholding political donations is not enough.
On its website, a group calling for the walkout stated that Disney leaders must stop investing in Florida until the legislation is repealed. This includes the relocation of approximately 2,000 professional jobs from its California headquarters, to Orlando. They also suggested that Disney should create an LGBTQ brand similar the Onyx Collective. This initiative is aimed at creating content for and by people of color.
Power, a Tallahassee GOP official said that he is confident that Disney will overcome this crisis and reestablish their relationship.
Power stated, "It's great that we're pushing back because the purpose of publicly traded companies is not to push an agenda." "Disney employees know that they must work with the Legislature, the governor, and they'll return around."