In the days since The Walt Disney Company first came under fire for giving money to the politicians behind Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, CEO Bob Chapek has apologized for initially saying nothing. and he then announced the company’s plans to “pause its political donations in Florida indefinitely. In the eyes of many of Disney’s queer employees, those steps just aren’t enough, and now they’re taking action to make that point.” clear as possible to the management of the company.
In response to Disney’s actions and Chapek’s emails, some Disney employees now plan to organize a week of virtual 15-minute strikes starting this afternoon, culminating in a one-day strike on March 22. In an open letter published on WhereIsChapek.com, a website created by some of the staffers who organized the Disney Do Better Walkout, employees expressed appreciation for Chapek’s apology, but took it upon themselves to explain how Disney has “totally failed to live up to the magnitude of the threat.” for the LGBTQIA+ safety represented by this legislation.” (Emphasis theirs.)
“These statements indicate that leadership still does not fully understand the impact this legislation will have, not only on Cast Members in the state of Florida, but on all members of the LGBTQIA+ community within the company and beyond,” the letter reads.
“You can’t fix this with educational seminars or token background characters — even organizations like HRC are refusing your money until action is taken.”
The “Don’t Say Gay” law effectively makes it illegal for kindergarten through third grade teachers to talk to their students about queerness or queer people, even though the concepts of sexual and gender identity aren’t really taken up. taught that level. Teachers should also not be allowed to broach the subjects with older students unless the subject is considered “age appropriate” or “developmentally appropriate” in ways not specified in the bill.
Chapek, as the open letter indicates, originally proposed that a good way for Disney to respond to homophobic legislation in the real world would be to continue telling and selling stories about fictional queer characters. Just days after Chapek’s email, Pixar’s employees pointed out how commonplace it is to remove queerness during the production process of the studio’s projects — so much so that it often feels like outright anti-gay censorship† While the folks behind the Disney Do Better Walkout understand the power of representation, they also understand that seeing yourself on screen isn’t the solution to this particular kind of pressing problem.
“The continued efforts to satisfy the LGBTQIA+ community with under-representation in the content produced and donations to well-meaning organizations are simply not enough,” the letter read. “You can’t fix this with educational seminars or token background characters — even organizations like HRC are refusing your money until action is taken.”
When we spoke to the organizers behind the strikes, they described the current atmosphere at Disney as one of “confusion and concern”, saying that morale among some employees had hit a clear low. While Disney has yet to comment on the strike, organizers said the company’s Slack channels, which focus on pride and diversity, have seen a marked increase in activity, specifically because of this issue.
“The LGBTQIA+ community has clearly been the most vocal and quite a few allies have also stood up to support us,” the organizers said. “There is clearly a sense of ‘something has to change’ and we needed a way to focus our energies on a plan that could bring wider attention to our questions – hence our strike effort, with clear demands.”
Rather than simply doubling representation, strike organizers want Disney to comply a series of requirements intended to “regain the truth of the LGBTQIA+ community”, starting with an outright commitment to “undetermined all campaign donations to … politicians involved in the enactment or adoption of the “Don’t Say Gay” law In addition to promising not to give money to those specific politicians, organizers are also urging Disney to “commit publicly to an actionable plan that protects workers” in Florida from direct harm from the “Don’t Say Gay” Act. Organizers are also calling on Disney to donate to groups like The Trevor Project and redouble its commitment to queer stories and their creators with the creation of a new in-house brand similar to The Onyx Collective that is specifically meant to focus on queer voting.
“As a community, we have been placed in an impossible and untenable position and must take action now to persuade TWDC to protect workers and their families in the face of such overt and unabashed bigotry,” the workers’ letter said. “The LGBTQIA+ community is no stranger to standing up for ourselves – Pride is a protest after all. Our community in TWDC is no different and we will show you how strong we are together.”
Update March 15, 4:50 PM ET: Article updated to quote the group of employees organizing the week of strikes.