With walkout threat, Disney finds itself in balancing act
Image via AP.

Walt Disney World
Unions aren't participating, 'though we are concerned about the issue' said one chief.

With some workers across the U.S. threatening a walkout Tuesday, The Walt Disney Co. finds itself in a balancing act between the expectations of a diverse workforce and demands from an increasingly polarized, politicized marketplace.

On the one side are LGBTQ advocates and Disney employees calling for a walkout in protest of CEO Bob Chapek’s slow response in publicly criticizing Florida legislation that critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The legislation bars instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.

On the other are politicians like Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who accuse the entertainment conglomerate of bending to cancel culture after a Disney decision to temporarily suspend political contributions in the state. According to Disney’s conservative critics, the company should be in the business of making profits instead of pushing an agenda.

Evan Power, chairman of the Leon County Republican Party, said he believes a strident minority of Disney employees are pushing the issue and DeSantis has more to gain by taking the side of parents who want more control over education and “sexual conversations” in early grades at school. DeSantis is viewed as a likely Republican presidential candidate in 2024.

“I think it pays dividends with parents across the state of Florida regardless of political divisions,” Power said.

Officials for the unions that represent tens of thousands of workers at Disney theme parks in Florida and Anaheim, California — including the hundreds of costumed performers who portray Mickey Mouse, Cinderella and Stitch at Walt Disney World — said there didn’t appear to be any momentum for a walkout.

“We are not in support of that,” Romualdas Dulskis, a Teamsters official in Orlando whose local represents costumed characters, bus drivers and other Disney workers, said Monday. “That’s just not the way we are going to go about this.”

Union leaders said they had advised their members not to participate because their contract prohibits work stoppages or disruptions.

“I don’t want to downplay anyone’s efforts, if someone feels what they are doing is the right way to make an impact,” said Eric Clinton, president of Unite Here! Local 362, which represents custodians, housekeepers and other Disney World theme park workers. “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.”

One of the organizers of the walkout, a New York-based employee, said they were expecting more participation from Disney workers in production, marketing, IT and other desk jobs than those in hourly, union jobs. The worker spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of being targeted online and because organizers didn’t want a single organizer taking the spotlight.

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Part of the goal of the walkout is for those workers with the “privilege” to be able to protest to stand up for those who can’t, the New York employee said.

Workers participating in the walkout plan to meet up with each other at locations in Orlando, New York City, Anaheim and Burbank, California, where the company is headquartered. A Disney spokesman didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

Disney, whose movies and properties shaped generations of children around the world, has spoken out several times in recent years about contentious social and political situations.

It was one of a slew of U.S. companies that in January 2021 said it would suspend political donations to lawmakers who voted against certifying President Joe Biden’s electoral victory. It also spoke out early against a 2016 anti-gay bill in Georgia, threatening to pull its business from the state, which has become a favorite of movie and TV studios. The bill was vetoed by Georgia’s then-governor.

And the company has not been immune to changing societal expectations. It has said it would revamp the Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean and Splash Mountain rides at its theme parks to remove racist and sexist elements and put short warnings in front of some of its classic movies on its streaming service, Disney+, warning of “outdated cultural depictions.”

This time, company CEO Chapek has drawn fire for speaking out about the gender identity bill only after it passed the Florida Legislature.

Republican lawmakers pushing the Florida legislation had argued that parents, not teachers, should be the ones talking to their children about gender issues during their early formative years.

The legislation attracted scrutiny from Biden, who called it “hateful,” as well as other Democrats who argue it demonizes LGBTQ people. It has been sent to DeSantis, who was expected to sign it into law.

Earlier this month, Chapek apologized for not coming out more forcibly and publicly against the bill, saying Disney officials had been working behind the scenes to stop it. Chapek, who became CEO in 2020, also announced it was pausing all political donations in Florida and increasing support for advocacy groups fighting similar legislation in other states. Chapek reiterated those points during a company-wide discussion with employees on Monday.

Disney has long been influential in Florida politics, tending to be conservative and supporting Republicans who have been in control of Tallahassee, the state capital, for two decades, but also being more open on social issues, said Patricia Campos-Medina, co-director of the Worker Institute at Cornell University. “That’s why people felt surprised that they wanted to say quiet on this issue,” she said.

Organizers of the walkout maintain that withholding political contributions isn’t enough.

On a website calling for the walkout, the group says that until the legislation is repealed, Disney leaders need to stop investments in Florida, including the relocation of 2,000 mostly professional jobs from its California headquarters to Orlando. They also say Disney needs to develop an LGBTQ brand similar to the Onyx Collective, an initiative aimed at developing content by and for people of color.

Power, the GOP official in Tallahassee, said he was confident that Disney and Florida Republicans would get past this flashpoint and restore their relationship, eventually.

“It’s good that we’re pushing back, because the purpose of a publicly traded company is not to push an agenda,” Power said. “The people at Disney know they need to work with the Legislature and the governor, and they’ll come back around.”

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Republished with permission from The Associated Press.

Last updated on March 22, 2022

Associated Press


13 comments

  • Impeach Biden

    March 22, 2022 at 8:47 am

    Woke politics destroying this country. I hope they walk. The place is a complete ripoff anyway.

    • Me too

      March 22, 2022 at 8:56 am

      “I hope they walk”

      Well yeah I do as well. And I hope it extends to your state and it loses money from it. I hope it makes an impact.

      That’s the point lol

      • Impeach Biden

        March 22, 2022 at 9:15 am

        So not teaching gender identity and sexual orientation in grades K through Third is a reason to walk. Most of the wackos that endorse this stupidity have no idea it is letting kids be kids until third grade before all of you nuts can begin your political education and propaganda.

        • It’s a comedy

          March 22, 2022 at 10:55 am

          Man you really are into this idea that I care

          It’s funny lol

      • Tom

        March 23, 2022 at 12:21 am

        Bye see ya, don’t let the door hit you on the ass.

        • Small world after all

          March 23, 2022 at 7:57 am

          You practicing for when you lose another 2.5 billion when Disney stops giving your state a lifeline lol

          • Tom

            March 24, 2022 at 6:26 am

            Disney ain’t going anywhere, full stop!
            You are delirious. What are they going to do move to Cali or China ? China Bootlickers they are. Your ignorance is overwhelming with fake monikers and stupidity. Wah Wah.

  • Hal P

    March 22, 2022 at 9:23 am

    The left has proven time and time again they are ALL OK with molesting children, Your children..

    • We do

      March 22, 2022 at 10:55 am

      Yeah we just sit around thinking. About it lol

  • L Middleton

    March 22, 2022 at 11:53 am

    This encapsulates the problem with the Democratic Party and the left in general:

    “One of the organizers of the walkout, a New York-based employee, said they were expecting more participation from Disney workers in production, marketing, IT and other desk jobs than those in hourly, union jobs.”

    The left is now the party of the elites, the denizens of C suites and faculty lounges, or in this case, of the Disney luxe office in lower Manhattan. They are losing the blue collar, hourly wage earners.

    • Tom

      March 23, 2022 at 7:57 am

      “Encapsulates” love using big words to describe liberal meanings. Good one.Awesome! “Extrapolate” is a fav of mine lately. Yes L Middleton.

    • Be the elite

      March 23, 2022 at 7:59 am

      “Party of the elites”

      being racist and everything Else just gets you a trailer and a bad attitude so yeah be elite lol

  • Tom

    March 22, 2022 at 11:50 pm

    Just go, bye, good for you our Gov, tax them, charge them all a state employee tax. Just them. No one cares. Bye

Comments are closed.


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