Disney is in a difficult position as some of its workers walk out in protest because of the company’s policies on LGBTQIA+ issues. On the one hand, Disney wants to be seen as a supporter of the LGBTQIA+ community and maintain its progressive image. On the other hand, it doesn’t want to alienate conservative customers who may not agree with its stance on LGBTQIA+ rights.
This balancing act is playing out in Disney’s parks and resorts across the country. In Orlando, for example, several employees walked off the job earlier this week to protest Disney’s decision not to recognize an employee group for LGBTQIA+ cast members. The employees are asking for things like expanded healthcare coverage for same-sex couples and gender-neutral bathrooms.
Throughout the day, pockets of employees staged demonstrations at various sites across the country, including near Orlando’s Walt Disney World and Walt Disney Animation Studios in California. According to a Disney official, there had been no interruptions in any operations.
Disney has responded to the protests by saying that it is committed to diversity and inclusion, and that it does not discriminate against anyone based on sexual orientation or gender identity. However, some employees feel that Disney isn’t doing enough to protect them from discrimination. They argue that the company needs to do more to ensure that they are treated fairly and with respect.
However, critics say that Disney has not done enough to support LGBTIQA+ rights in other areas, such as employee benefits and workplace protections. They point to the fact that Disney does not offer comprehensive health insurance coverage for transgender employees, and that it has not signed onto a major federal anti-discrimination bill that would protect LGBTIQA+ workers.
“We are creators, and we felt that we could be creative and productive and write letters of encouragement to LGBTQ youth,” said Gabe, a Walt Disney World product development manager who didn’t want his last name used for fear of having his privacy invaded.
Scores of Disney workers marched outside the company’s Burbank, California, studios, including one carrying rainbow-colored Mickey Mouse doll and chanting, “Say gay!”
“We had a great group out here just to show our support for our queer employees and their families,” said Nora Rogers, a production supervisor at Walt Disney Animation Studios.
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.
Disney has long been influential in Florida politics, tending to support 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 stay quiet on this issue,” she said.
It will be interesting to see how Disney handles this situation in the coming weeks and months. It’s clear that the company is trying to walk a fine line between appeasing its progressive customers and keeping its conservative ones happy. Only time will tell if Disney can successfully navigate these tricky waters.