The Disney theme parks posted a statement of support for gay, lesbian, and transgender employees and fans Tuesday, in advance of planned walkouts by cast members.
Disney employees are upset with the company's financial support of politicians backing legislation that critics say attack or marginalize LGBTQIA+ people, most notably Florida's so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill, which would prohibit discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in early elementary classrooms.
No one seriously believes that this bill would prohibit teachers from talking about straight kids' mommies and daddies or siblings - just classroom talk about gays and lesbians - which is why it's been called the "Don't Say Gay" bill.
Disney theme parks posted the following statement across all of their social media accounts on Tuesday:
"To ALL who come to this happy place, welcome. Disney Parks, Experiences and Products is committed to creating experiences that support family values for every family and will not stand for discrimination in any form. We oppose any legislation that infringes on basic human rights and stand in solidarity and support our LGBTQIA+ cast, crew, Imagineers and fans who make their voices heard today and every day."
While walk-out organizers claimed the postings as a victory, hundreds of employees did walk out from Disney offices in Burbank and Glendale, California. There were no reports of major walk-outs at Disney's theme parks, where hourly employees are not able to walk out with facing disciplinary action, due to their unions' contracts with Disney, which prohibit strikes while the contracts are in effect.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek has said that Disney will pause all campaign contributions in Florida, but similar legislation, as well as bills targeting women and voting rights, are moving through legislatures in many others states, including ones where Disney does significant business - notably Georgia. Disney employees have called on the company to stop giving money to candidates supporting such bills nationwide and instead direct money to other candidates who have pledged to fight that legislation.
All of this is happening within the context of Disney moving its Disney Parks Experiences and Products headquarters, including many Walt Disney Imagineering staff, from California to Florida, which has led to some cast members leaving the company rather than relocate. Disney is slated to get more than half a billion dollars in tax breaks from the state of Florida to make the move.
The challenge for Disney management is that the Venn Diagram of politicians who will vote for corporate welfare like that and those who support stuff like the "Don't Say Gay" bill now is pretty much a circle. Making social justice and civil rights as the company's top priorities in political giving may mean backing candidates who will not support tax deals that are making the company an enormous amount of money. In addition to the deals that Disney gets for its parks in Florida, Marvel Studios is getting bank to film in Georgia, for example.
But given the increasingly poor state of relations between Disney management and many of its employees at the moment, including top Hollywood talent who are calling out the company, that might be a move that Chapek needs to make in order to maintain his position.
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