Mike Schneider and Brendan Farrington – Associated Press
Orlando, Florida (AP) – On Tuesday, some U.S. workers threatened to resign, Walt Disney Co. is in balance between the expectations of a diverse workforce and the demands of an increasingly polarized, politicized market.
On the one hand, LGBTQ supporters and Disney staff are calling for a protest against CEO Bob Chapek’s slow response to public criticism of Florida law, which opponents have dubbed the “Don’t Tell Gays” bill. The legislation pending the governor’s signing teaching sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.
On the other hand, politicians like Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis accusing an entertainment conglomerate seeking to abolish culture after Disney’s decision to temporarily suspend political contributions to the state. According to conservative Disney critics, the company should be making a profit, not promoting the agenda.
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It was unclear how many employees would come out and what could happen to those who do. Union leaders of tens of thousands of union workers at Disney theme parks in Florida and California said they saw no impetus among their members to exit, and advised them not to do so because it would violate contractual obligations. Organizers said they expect some involvement from manufacturing, marketing, IT and other non-union jobs.
Evan Power, chairman of the Republican Party in Leon County, said he believes a significant minority of Disney staff is pushing the problem, and DeSantis can gain more by siding with parents who want more control over education and “sex talk” in elementary school. at school. DeSantis is seen as a likely Republican presidential candidate in 2024.
“I think it brings dividends to parents across Florida, regardless of political divisions,” Power said.
Ramualdas Dulskis, a brigade employee in Orlando, whose local represents costumed characters depicting Mickey Mouse, Cinderella and Stitch in the world of Walt Disney, as well as bus drivers and other Disney workers, his union did not support the trip.
“It’s just not the way we’re going to go,” he said.
Trade union leaders said contracts prohibits interruptions or failures.
“I don’t want to belittle someone’s efforts when someone feels that what they’re doing is the right way to influence,” said Eric Clinton, president of Unite Here! Local 362, representing caretakers, housemates and other Disney World theme park staff. “We are not part of that. It would violate our agreement if the members of our union participated, although we are, of course, concerned about this issue. “
One of the organizers of the absenteeism, an employee from New York, said they were waiting for the participation of workers with “privileges” to be able to protest to stand up for those who could not, the employee said. The worker spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being targeted online and because the organizers did not want one organizer to be the center of attention.
The workers involved in the walk plan to meet each other in Orlando, New York, Anaheim and Burbank, California, where the company is headquartered.
“Queer staff has been working for years to make this campaign better – we didn’t need all of that to get people’s attention up the food chain. Our votes mattered before all this, ”the organizers said tweeted Tuesday.
A Disney spokesman did not respond to an email asking for comment. As of October last year, Disney had 190,000 employees, about three-quarters of whom worked in the theme park division.
Disney, whose films and properties have shaped generations of children around the world, has repeatedly spoken out in recent years about controversial social and political situations.
It was one of many U.S. campaigns that in January 2021 said they would suspend political donations to lawmakers who voted against the certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory. He also early opposed the 2016 anti-gay bill in Georgia, threatening to withdraw his business from the state, which has become a favorite of film and television studios. The bill was vetoed by the then governor of Georgia.
And the company is not immune to changing society’s expectations. He said he would renovate Jungle cruisePirates of the Caribbean and Splash mountain rides in their theme parks to remove racist and sexist elements and put short warnings in front of some of his classic films on his Disney + streaming service, warning viewers of “outdated cultural images”.
This time, Chapek, who became CEO in 2020, sparked fire for speaking out on the Gender Identity Bill only after it was passed by the Florida Legislature.
Republican legislators pushing Florida law argued that parents, not teachers, should talk to their children about gender issues in the early years of their formation.
Legislation attracted close attention from Biden, who called it “hateful,” and other Democrats who say it demonizes LGBTQ. It was sent to DeSantis, who is expected to sign it into law.
Chapek apologized earlier this month for not speaking out more strongly and publicly against the bill, saying Disney officials were working behind the scenes to stop it. Chapek also announced the suspension of all political donations in Florida and greater support for advocacy groups fighting similar legislation in other states. Chapek reiterated these points during a nationwide discussion with staff on Monday.
Disney has long been influential in Florida politics, striving to be conservative and supportive of Republicans who have controlled Tallahassee, the state capital, for two decades, but also being more open on social issues, said Patricia Compass-Medina, co-director. Institute of Workers at Cornell University. “So people were surprised that they wanted to keep quiet about it,” she said.
The organizers of the action claim that the content of political contributions is insufficient.
On a website Calling for the exit, the group says that until legislation is repealed, Disney leaders must stop investing in Florida, including moving 2,000 mostly professional jobs from headquarters in California to Orlando. They also say Disney needs to develop an LGBTQ brand similar to Onyx Collective, an initiative aimed at developing content for people of color.
Power, a Republican official in Tallahassee, said he is confident that Disney and Florida Republicans will overcome that flash point and eventually rebuild their relationship.
“It’s good that we’re pushing each other away, because the goal of the public campaign is not to promote the agenda,” Power said. “People at Disney know they need to work with the legislature and the governor, and they’ll be back.”
Farrington reported from Tallahassee. Authors AP Tally Arbel of New York and Amy Thaksin of Orange County, California, contributed to this report.
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