Disney employees plan all day walkout over ‘Don’t Say Gay Bill’

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Disney employees are staging a nationwide, all-day walkout Tuesday, March 22, 2022, after company leadership failed to speak out against the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida.

The extended walkout follows smaller ones in the past week by various divisions within the company as LGBTQ+ staffers and allies took issue with CEO Bob Chapek’s lack of response to the bill headed to Florida governor Ron DeSantis’ desk. That bill calls for “restricting” classroom “discussion” about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools.

Discussion is banned at lower elementary levels, but a provision in the law that also bans non “age-appropriate” discussions about these topics is seen as vague by some and potentially opening the door for families to sue districts for what’s said in the classroom at any level.

Disney was one of the largest companies to remain silent about the bill when it first began to make national headlines, which was met with widespread criticism, despite its significant corporate footprint in the state.

Only after substantial employee and public backlash did Chapek announce the company would stop political donations in Florida and voiced support for LGBTQ+ employees opposed to the bill.

Many saw that as too little, too late.

In an open letter, a group of employees that represent various divisions within Disney made a series of demands from company leadership about more diverse representation, culture and support both within the company and in the entertainment and other content it produces.

Meanwhile, employees are being advised that they can opt to use their required break time to walk out in protest, but some are encouraging employees to step away from their desks for the entire day, though it notes that they could face disciplinary action for doing so since it is technically an illegal walkout.

The letter does not include the names of groups of employees in the company’s theme parks or ABC, ABC News or ESPN divisions, so it’s not clear if staffers of those divisions would participate.

Disney has significant presence in the Orlando, Florida, area, thanks to its Disney World theme park, as well as California, New York and Connecticut once all of its divisions are included.

The group has also organized a petition, set up a website at whereischapek.com and is heavily promoting the hashtags #DisneyDoBetter, #DisneySayTrans, #DisneySayGay and #WhereIsChapek across social media.

Meanwhile, multiple Disney owned properties, including Disney+, Disney Parks, ESPN and ABC News posted similar messages of support for the LGBTQ+ community on their social media accounts March 22 — a move that some are, again, is saying too late and conveniently timed to coincide with planned walkouts.

Proponents of the bill claim the legislation protects parents and guardians’ rights to determine what content students are exposed to in public schools.