The recent statements by The Walt Disney Company (TWDC) leadership regarding the Florida legislature’s recent “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill have utterly failed to match the magnitude of the threat to LGBTQIA+ safety represented by this legislation. Primarily, those statements have indicated that leadership still does not truly understand the impact this legislation is having not only on Cast Members in the state of Florida, but on all members of the LGBTQIA+ community in the company and beyond. While we certainly appreciate Bob Chapek’s apology note, there is still more work to be done.
Due to the lack of compassion and advocacy, TWDC’s LGBTQIA+ community and their allies are determined to take a stand via multiple direct actions, including both virtual and in-person protests – the first of which will take place on Tuesday, March 15th.
TWDC’s previous suggestions for addressing the concern around this law have included: Creating more inclusive content; Encouraging a welcoming culture; Supporting diverse community organizations.
As Mr. Chapek states in his apology note: “It is clear that this is not just an issue about a bill in Florida, but instead yet another challenge to basic human rights.” We reaffirm that “both sides” rhetoric is harmful and hurtful because being LGBTQIA+ is not a political opinion or side – it is people, community, and families. We are glad to see that we agree with Mr. Chapek on this – it is about human rights and not political affiliation. We’d like to take this opportunity to make it clear – Cast Members’ identities are not “political issues,” our safety and well-being is crucial to the success of this company, no cast member or their families should be forced to live in fear, and it is unacceptable to use the profits of our labor to take our human rights away.
We stand in solidarity with our colleagues in Florida, who will be directly harmed by this new law and yet still required to perform their duties for a company that not only failed to prevent, but also tacitly funded it. This becomes especially concerning when you consider that TWDC is requiring even more employees to work and live in Florida, making even more Cast Members targets for this hateful law.
TWDC claims to integrate DEI in it’s core values but the employees have yet to see fruitful integration of this program that is properly uplifting marginalized voices, moreover in an intersectional way. By supporting the politicians who brought this legislation and not taking a public stand against it, Chapek and TWDC leadership have made it clear they are more than willing to sacrifice their employees’ health and wellness in service of the bottom line. We will not stand for this anymore.
TWDC’s LGBTQIA+ community and their allies will be participating in some combination of the following actions to protest this gross inaction and lack of accountability:
A coordinated work break protest; A “walk out” / “sick out”; Other venues of protest as folks feel comfortable.
Our community will not sit silently while TWDC fails in its obligations to advocate for employees it claims to support with “unwavering commitment”, profits off our labor, and boasts of record profits it has used to fund politicians who legislate unsafe schools for our youth. 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.
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.
The following are the steps that TWDC needs to do in order to regain the trust of the LGBTQIA+ community and employees:
A temporary pause is not enough – we require a commitment. TWDC must immediately and indefinitely cease all campaign donations to these politicians involved in the creation or passage of the “don’t say gay or trans” bill: Ron DeSantis, Ben Albritton, Dennis Baxley, Aaron Bean, Jim Boyd [the list goes on through the legislators who put through the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, most of whom have already received tens or hundreds of thousands in political donations from Disney].
Mr. Chapek has noted: “Starting immediately, we are increasing our support for advocacy groups to combat similar legislation in other states. We are hard at work creating a new framework for our political giving that will ensure our advocacy better reflects our values.” While we appreciate this sentiment, we require more details. TWDC must publicly commit to an actionable plan that protects employees from hateful legislation including:
Reflecting their commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community by stopping construction and investment in the state of Florida until hateful legislation is repealed.
Stopping any efforts to move employees to Florida office locations, ensuring employee safety and employment retention.
Guaranteeing no employee will be terminated when denying relocation to FL.
For those employees already relocated or currently in Florida, Disney to create an employee resource group specializing in helping LGBTQ+ families navigate the state’s political and educational climate, and partner with other local groups for additional employee resources.
TWDC must reaffirm the company’s commitment to protecting and advocating for its LGBTQIA+ staff, even in the face of political risk. This must include full transparency into political and organizational contributions – full accountability is not negotiable
TWDC must take responsibility for their inaction to protect the rights of LGBTQIA+ children and their families by making substantial contributions to The Trevor Project, Trans Lifeline and other human rights advocacy groups in an effort to regain our trust in the company’s inclusion and equality efforts.
TWDC should allocate content spending and outline how it will expand its content catalog to represent the LGBTQIA+ as well as transparent reporting on methods of community inclusion in content creation and inception.
TWDC pledges to create an LGBTQIA+ brand similar to that of “The Onyx Collective” focusing on LGBTQ+ creators and underrepresented voices.
The LGBTQIA+ community is no stranger to advocating 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.
This letter is in partnership with members of the LGBTQIA+ community across Disney Corporate, Disney Television Animation, Lucasfilm, Pixar, Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution, Disney Streaming, Enterprise Finance, Enterprise Technology/Global Information Security, Bento Box, Disney Animation Studios