The passage of Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill, what critics have termed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, has prompted a number of responses from Disney as a company, Disney’s CEO, other Disney leaders, and more.
Just recently, Disney held a virtual town hall meeting regarding the Bill and Disney’s previous responses. The town hall meeting was held yesterday, just one day before some Disney employees planned to walk out of their jobs in response to Disney’s handling of this issue. Today, the walkouts are scheduled to take place. But just what is going on with these walkouts at the moment and what has already taken place? Here’s what we know.
The Bill at the center of all of this is, as we mentioned, what critics call the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill, which has passed the House and Senate in Florida. According to the Wall Street Journal, the “Florida bill prohibits instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity from kindergarten to third grade and in later grades if not ‘age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.'” It is expected that Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, will sign the Bill soon.
Click here to learn more about the Bill, Disney’s responses to it, and what proponents and critics have to say
As we noted above, some Disney employees have planned walkouts (both in-person and virtual) as a response to Disney’s handling of the situation surrounding this Bill. According to Variety, those who organized the walkouts came from various areas within the Disney Company, but are separate from Disney’s business employee resource groups and the Disney PRIDE organization.
According to Variety, the walkouts were scheduled to take place during Cast Members’ 15-minute break periods through March 21st. They were then set to conclude on March 22nd (today) with a “full-scale walkout.”
So just what is happening today, March 22nd, the day of the scheduled “full scale walkouts”? According to KCBD News, it has been “unclear how many employees would walk out or what might happen to those who do.”
The leaders of some unions that represents “tens of thousands of unionized workers at Disney theme parks in Florida and California said they saw no momentum among their members for a walkout, and advised them not to do so because it would defy contractual obligations.”
An official from the Teamsters union, which represents Cast Members who are “friends with” Mickey, Cinderella, and Stitch at Disney World, plus bus drivers and other Disney workers, said the union did not support the walkout.
Romualdas Dulskis, a Teamsters official in Orlando, said “That’s just not the way we are going to go about this.” According to KCBD News, union leaders had indicated that the contracts the employees have signed prohibit “work stoppages or disruptions.”
Eric Clinton, the president of the Unite Here! Local 362 Union, said “I don’t want to downplay anyone’s efforts, if someone feels what they are doing is the right way to make an impact…We aren’t part of that. It would violate our contract if members of our union participated, though we are concerned about the issue, of course.” Unite Here! Local 362 represents custodians, housekeepers, and other employees at Disney World.
According to Newsweek, the president of Unite Here! Local 362 has shared that the union is looking at other ways to help the LGBTQ+ Disney employees that would be impacted by the Bill.
The Los Angeles Times also notes that the Disney Pride Advisory Group posted a message in Disney’s Slack saying that they neither endorsed nor condemned the actions, and they noted that they had not organized the event. The statement also noted: “The Pride Advisory Group is not here to police the ways in which people feel they want to advocate for themselves, but we are here to gather the community’s calls for change into a focused plan of action where we stand a greater chance of exacting lasting results.”
KCBD News shares that the organizers of the walkouts had shared that they “expected some participation from production, marketing, IT and other non-unionized jobs.” One of the organizers in particular, who is based in New York, said “they were expecting participation by workers with the ‘privilege’ to be able to protest to stand up for those who can’t.”
Those who are participating in the walkout are expected to meet up in Orlando, New York, Anaheim, and Burbank.
What do those organizing the walkouts want? Well, the website aimed at organizing these walkouts has a list of demands. As USA Today notes, those protesting want “action” and they “want Disney to stop relocating employees to the state and stop construction and investment there until the bill is off the books.”
Other demands that have been made include “outlining spending and plans for content that increases LGBTQ representation.”
In terms of who has been invited to these walkouts, it has been pretty broad. USA Today shares that “employees at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, ABC, FX, National Geographic, Hulu, Walt Disney Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Studios, LucasFilm, 20th Century Fox, Searchlight Pictures and Disney’s various other properties are invited to take part in Tuesday’s walkout.”
Some employees have already participated in smaller walkouts or forms of protest. “ESPN announcers Elle Duncan, Carolyn Peck, Courtney Lyle, Stephanie White and Pam Ward have observed moments of silence live during broadcasts, in solidarity with their colleagues.”
The Orange County Register also notes that there were walkouts staged at Walt Disney Animation Studio (on March 17th) and Pixar (on March 18th).
One individual interviewed by USA Today shared that he planned to stand outside Disney World with signs and flags on March 22nd.
According to the Orange County Register, the “Disney Do Better Walkout” website encourages individuals “not to work while on the job or call in sick and stay home for the day.”
The Orange County Register shares that these walkouts are “unlikely” to result in any protests by Cast Members in “on-stage” areas of the parks — meaning areas where the guests are present. But, the OC Register notes that the walkouts could impact Disneyland Resort in other ways.
Specifically in reference to Disneyland Resort and Disney California Adventure Park, the OC Register shares that if there are any “work stoppages” or if more individuals call out sick, that could make for longer lines at rides, food stands, and more due to a lack of available Cast Members to help guests.
The OC Register also notes that in “extreme instances,” select rides, restaurants, or other locations could be closed due to the walkout.
Thus far, we have not noted anything specific to these walkouts in terms of actions being taken “on-stage” in the Disney World theme parks where our reporters are today. This is a developing situation. We’ll continue to keep an eye out for more updates.