A culture clash has come to a head between Florida governor Ron DeSantis and The Walt Disney Company. The issue that prompted this is the highly controversial Parental Rights in Education Bill passed by the Florida Senate on March 8, 2022.
Referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by opponents, the legislation prohibits classroom discussion on sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grades, and instruction on these topics will not occur until after third grade. DeSantis has stated that he plans to sign the bill soon, setting him up for a showdown with one of his state’s financial powerhouses: Walt Disney World.
USA Today reports the conservative governor has accused Disney of painting “false narratives” around the legislation. Disney CEO Bob Chapek, who has held the position for just two years, attempted to remain neutral on the issue.However, this has angered people on both sides of the fence.Despite initially keeping silent on the legislation, Chapeklater apologized for “not being a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights.” He then announced supportive measures, such as donating to advocacy groups and taking another look at political contributions.
This lackluster response lit a fire under Disney employees, who staged a walkout at the famed Burbank, CA, studio on Tuesday, March 22. They are demanding that Disney live up to its expressed ideal of showing support for LGBTQ employees and challenging Chapek to stand with them against the Florida bill. Additional demands include stopping the relocation of employees to the state and halting construction and investment until the bill is cast away. Also on the list is an outline for the spending and plans for content positively representing the LGBTQ community.
Despite its inclusive image, Disney has a tight-lipped corporate culture that encourages positivity. Per the Los Angeles Times, employees are hesitant to speak ill of the company or challenge upper-level management. The Florida legislation has changed that, prompting employees to take a side in the controversy.A Disney spokesperson said: “We know how important this issue is for our LGBTQ+ employees, their families, and allies, we respect our colleagues’ right to express their views, and we pledge our ongoing support of the LGBTQ+ community in the fight for equal rights.”
Many Disney employees have critiqued the management on its poor handling of what they consider a human rights issue. It is also a culmination of grievances built up against Chapek since he succeeded Bob Iger. Today’s workforce expects more of its management than ever before, and there is a burden of proof on Chapek to prove he is the right person to lead one of the world’s biggest companies.