'Apathy & inaction' | Disney staff stage walk out amid pleas for more LGBT+ staff protection

Disney staff stage walk out amid pleas for more LGBT+ staff protection

Disney employees are staging ‘virtual’ walkouts this week as part of demands for the firm to take action against new legislation on LGBT+ education.

As reported by The Verge, The Walt Disney Company (TWDC) employees in the US began downing tolls on March 15 and will continue to do so for 15 minutes each day until March 22nd, when they will strike for a full day.

The industrial action comes in the wake of Florida passing new legislation called the Parental Rights in Education Bill, commonly referred to as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, which employees claim Disney has been ‘apathetic’ towards.

According to The Independent, the new bill essentially means that Florida schools will be restricted from teaching students about sexual orientation and gender issues, with teachers who fail to comply putting themselves at risk of lawsuits.

There are several reasons for Disney employees taking action: many Disney employees work in Florida, where the flagship Walt Disney World Resort is located; the company has previously made financial donations to US politicians who helped spearhead the bill, according to The Verge; and the company’s recent announcement that it is relocating its HQ from California to Florida.

CEO Bob Chapek announced the corporation’s plans to “pause” its political donations in Florida. He also suggested that Disney should respond by “creating a more inclusive world...through the inspiring content we produce."

However, Disney activists have criticised the idea, saying: “subpar representation in the content produced and donations to well-meaning organisations are simply not enough.”

Chapek later apologised for his comments, saying: “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.”

'Disney Do Better'

On WhereIsChapek.com, a website created by a number of staff who formed the Disney Do Better group, employees described the bill as 'harmful and hurtful'. They wrote: “The Walt Disney Company’s (TWDC) LGBTQIA+ community and their allies are determined to take a stand against TWDC’s apathy in the face of the bigoted “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill put forth by the FL state legislature.

“The recent statements and lack of action by TWDC leadership regarding the “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” 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.”

An open letter on the same website added: "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."

Another section of the website includes statements of condemnation from several employees. One simply said: “DO MORE, DO BETTER. Please.”

Another wrote: “As a young and ambitious nonbinary member of the themed entertainment community, the lack of clear and public support for the issues facing folks like me has me worried... If Disney is saying they support people like me, they need to conduct the actions befitting of those words.”

”I think that the company should cancel its efforts to relocate business units from California to Florida in light of this legislation. Its cruel to force LGBTQ employees or family members to relocate to a place that is not safe for them”, another posted.

Disney Do Better also outlined several steps it wants the company to action over this matter, including a commitment to “indefinitely cease all campaign donations” to politicians involved in the creation or passage of the bill.

The organisers have also demanded Disney “publicly commit to an actionable plan that protects employees” based in Florida from being directly harmed by the legislation.

How can HR support LGBT+ staff?

Emma Kosmin, Associate Director of Workplace Client Relationships at Stonewall, (she/her), previously told HR Grapevine it was crucial for employers to ensure their workplaces allow employees to feel completely comfortable to be themselves.

”It’s vital that employers create environments in which all employees feel comfortable being themselves” she said.

“From ensuring your organisation’s policies are LGBT+ inclusive to visibly supporting events like Pride, there’s so many ways that employers can make their LGBT+ staff feel supported."

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