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Disney Workers Walk Out to Protest Company's Stance Toward Anti-Gay Bill

Organizers have also planned a "social media storm" at 11 a.m. PT/2 p.m. ET Tuesday to coordinate posts of support.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
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Joan E. Solsman
3 min read
Sunset over the Magic Kingdom Park of Disney World in Florida

Disney World is one of the linchpins of Florida's massive tourism industry. 

Getty Images

Disney workers are coordinating daylong walkouts on Tuesday to protest what organizers call the company's apathy to an anti- LGBTQIA+ bill in Florida that is only awaiting the governor's signature to become law. 

Some Disney-owned brands -- including Disney Plus, Disney ParksESPN and ABC News -- posted statements of support on Tuesday morning on social media, saying they stand with LGBTQIA+ employees, colleagues and fans and oppose legislation that "infringes on the basic human rights" of people in the LGBTQIA+ community. 

Organizers of the walkout said the statements posted to Disney accounts were "tirelessly advocated for by our own LGBTQIA+ co-workers."

The Disney walkouts are the latest example of rank-and-file workers agitating over their employers' political stances. The country's divisive political climate has repeatedly put corporations in the middle of a tug-of-war between outraged factions of employees, customers and investors. For people directly affected by a bill or debate, a company's position may come as a personal affront. But even for those who aren't, the protests and divisions may mean considering politics the next time they decide where to shop, which streaming service to pay for or even where to take a vacation. 

Florida's Parental Rights in Education bill, which opponents refer to as the Don't Say Gay bill, would ban classroom instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity from kindergarten to third grade and prohibit the same for older students if the instruction fails to be "age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate." Florida's legislature approved the bill earlier this month, and Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign it into law.

Disney initially took no public stance, then later said it advocated against the legislation behind the scenes. After the bill passed, the company took an official position against the bill, and CEO Bob Chapek apologized to employees on March 11 for failing to be a stronger ally.

"While we certainly appreciate Bob Chapek's apology note, there is still more work to be done," organizers wrote in an open letter last week. The letter also said Disney leadership "utterly failed" to appreciate the magnitude of the bill and the effect of the legislation on Disney workers in Florida and beyond. 

Disney walkout organizers have asking participants to stop working from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. in their own timezones on Tuesday, or from the start to the end of their shifts. At 11 a.m. PT/2 p.m. ET, organizers have slated a "social media storm" to coordinate posts of support. 

Disney World, based outside Orlando, is a massive resort that includes four theme parks, two water parks, dozens of hotels, golf courses, retail stores and entertainment venues. Tens of thousands of employees welcome tens of millions of visitors every year. 

Walkouts by Disney workers at public venues like its parks would be visible, but many of the company's office employees are still working remotely, which may make it difficult to gauge the scope of the protest. 

Earlier this year, Spotify workers pushed back against the streaming service's support of podcaster Joe Rogan, and last year Netflix employees staged walkouts over Dave Chappelle's comedy special that critics called transphobic. Workers at AppleGoogle and Amazon have organized against their companies' culture, privacy policies and other issues. 

The Walt Disney Company didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 

CNET's Carrie Mihalcik contributed to this report.