Walt Disney Co. employees at corporate locations across the U.S. plan to get up from their desks and head to the exits Tuesday to protest CEO Bob Chapek’s response to Florida legislation that LGBTQ advocates have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
LGBTQ workers and allies are expected to participate in a general walkout at office locations in California, Florida and elsewhere, a group of employees announced last week on a website that calls out Chapek by name.
In recent weeks, Chapek has come under intense internal criticism and public scrutiny for not having taken a more forceful stand against HB 1557, a bill that would prohibit instruction about “sexual orientation or gender identity” in kindergarten through the third grade in Florida.
The corporation’s position on the bill appeared to be especially galling to some of the tens of thousands of Disney employees in Florida, home to the sprawling Walt Disney World theme park and resort in Orlando.
Chapek, who ascended to the throne of the Magic Kingdom in 2020, apologized directly to employees in a letter released March 11.
“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,” Chapek said in the letter. “I am sorry.”
He also announced that the company would pause all donations to elected officials in Florida.
But the letter did not end the outcry.
LGBTQ employees started making plans for a series of protests during breaks, culminating in a general walkout Tuesday. They announced their plans on a website (whereischapek.com) and an Instagram account called disney_walkout.https://iframe.nbcnews.com/nFbqpav?_showcaption=true&app=1
“The recent statements and lack of action by TWDC [The Walt Disney Co.] 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,” the employees said.
“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.”
Chapek tried to rectify the situation in a virtual town hall Monday, according to The Wall Street Journal, telling employees that he and other top executives were “determined to use this moment as a catalyst for more meaningful and lasting change.”
The Journal, citing people who attended the event, reported that Chapek said he and other senior leaders would go on a global listening tour of employees.