Disney employees go on strike to protest company’s response to Florida bill

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Employees of the Walt Disney Company (DIS.N) Strikes and social media campaigns were staged Tuesday to protest the company’s response to Florida legislation that would limit classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity.

In a rare public demonstration of unrest, about 60 Disney employees gathered at a park outside Los Angeles, where they held up signs calling Disney to “protect LGBT children” and chanted “Disney says gay. We’re not leaving.”

“A lot of people enjoy working for Disney. A lot of people are upset that the company they love is doing harm to a subset of employees and their community in Florida,” said Taylor White, Disney Television’s artistic director.

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Disney has faced internal criticism over its public stance on the legislation, which critics call the “Don’t Say Like Me” bill.

On Tuesday, some employees walked into a demonstration around the perimeter of nearby Disney Studios. The other employees spoke via Twitter. The turnout has been modest for Disney, which employs about 16,000 people in Burbank and Glendale, even though many are working from home due to the pandemic.

The protests culminated in a week of brief strikes during scheduled breaks, as part of a campaign dubbed “Disney Do Better Walkout”.

Regulators have called on Disney to halt campaign contributions to politicians who support the Florida measure and put in place a plan to protect employees from such legislation. They also want Disney to halt construction in Florida, home of the company’s flagship Walt Disney World theme park, until the state rescinds the measure, which Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has indicated he will sign into law. If so, it goes into effect on July 1.

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Disney tried to address employee concerns with a virtual town hall for employees on Monday. CEO Bob Chabek said the company made a mistake in the beginning, staying publicly silent about the legislation and vowing to use the moment as a catalyst for change.

“We know how important this issue is to LGBTQ+ employees, their families, and their allies, and we respect our colleagues’ right to express their opinions,” a Disney spokesperson said. “And we pledge our continued support to the LGBTQ+ community in the fight for equal rights.”

Ahead of Tuesday’s demonstrations, one unit within the company, Disney+, offered public support to fellow LGBTQIA+ on Twitter, writing: “We strongly condemn all legislation that violates the basic human rights of people in the LGBTQIA+ community.”

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(Reporting by Lisa Richwin and Don Chmielewski); Editing by David Gregorio

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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