During the weekend, California Governor Gavin Newsom called on Disney to move workers back from Florida to California following the rise of a gender orientation discussion bill in Florida. Critics quickly fired back.
The growing discontentment dates back to July of 2021. While California lost some Disney positions to a growing Disney presence in Florida, Disney announced that month that they would be moving 2,000 Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products jobs to the new Lake Nona regional campus in Orlando. Despite opposition from many lawmakers and Disney employees who wished to stay in California, employees began moving in November, including many of the famed “imagineers.”
Meanwhile, in Florida, a controversial bill by Florida state Representative Joe Harding (R) was introduced in Florida in January. HB 1557, also known as the Parental Rights in Education bill, would restrict the teaching of sex education, gender identity and sexual orientation in grades kindergarten through 3rd. Specifically, the bill notes that “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate.”
The bill quickly became divisive in Florida, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by media and LGBTQ activists, despite the crux of the bill still being about not teaching sex education to young children in lower grades. There was enough support to eventually pass HB 1557.
In the original version of the bill, it left an option for exemption from disclosure, or “outing” as it’s known, for cases where there was a suspicion of the information leading to abuse, neglect or abandonment, WFLA reported. This is when and how opponents in Florida started calling the bill the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, with it drawing enough criticism to pull even some more moderate Republicans away from supporting it.
However, despite the opposition, HB 1577 passed the Florida Senate last week, with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis saying that it had his support due to the bill being widely seen not as a restriction on gender identity and sexual orientation but as a bill that would stop sex education from happening to those in grades 3 and lower.
Many companies, including Disney, spoke out against the bill. LGBT employees in particular had written letters to Disney CEO Bob Chapek about their opposition against the bill, with many non-LGBT employees in California and Florida also asking him to oppose it. Pressured, Chapek called DeSantis and noted his concern and expressed the anger from Florida LBT employees on the matter.
“I called Governor DeSantis this morning to express our disappointment and concern that if legislation becomes law it could be used to target gay, lesbian, nonbinary and transgender kids and families,” said Chapek last Wednesday. ” DeSantis heard our concerns and agreed to meet with me and LGBTQ+ members of our senior team in Florida to discuss ways to address them.” Chapek also added that he did not want to come publicly out against the bill because that endorsement would be “weaponized” by both sides and further divide people on the issue.
In response, DeSantis challenged Disney, saying that Floridians don’t want transgenderism in younger grades and reiterating that the bill was there to stop sex education to those too young to fully understand it.
“In Florida, our policies got to be based on the best interest of Florida citizens, not on the musing of woke corporations. You have companies like a Disney that are gonna say and criticize parents’ rights, they’re gonna criticize the fact that we don’t want transgenderism in kindergarten and first grade classrooms,” said DeSantis to supporters last week. “If that’s the hill that they’re gonna die on, then how do they possibly explain lining their pockets with their relationship with the Communist Party of China? That’s what they do, and they make a fortune, and they don’t say a word about the really brutal practices that you see over there at the hands of the CCP.”
DeSantis’ speech only caused more furor, with Disney employees once again pushing for Chapek to do more. Pressured once again, Chapek formally came out against the bill late last week and pledged $5 million to LGBTQ organizations. Chapek also apologized to employees personally for not taking a stronger initial stance and suspended all political donations to bill supporters in Florida.
Governor Newsom calls for Disney to bring back jobs over new restrictive law
The fight between Florida and Disney soon came back to California during the weekend. Governor Newsom, who saw thousands of Disney employees leave in the Orlando move and and a growing rift between Florida and Disney, invited Disney to bring back those jobs to California in a tweet on Saturday.
“Disney, the door is open to bring those jobs back to California – the state that actually represents the values of your workers,” said Governor Newsom.
Disney, the door is open to bring those jobs back to California – the state that actually represents the values of your workers. https://t.co/kbCi7Zgs90
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) March 13, 2022
Many Disney employees in Florida quickly backed Newsom during the weekend, saying how disappointed they have been with Florida.
“There’s a large number of employees here who hate this,” said a group of Disney employees in Orlando to the Globe on Monday. “We’re torn too. There’s a lot to like about Florida, but things like this push it too far. California has higher taxes, but at least they don’t have to put up with wackos over here.”
“A lot of us are regretting coming to Florida now. We were initially really excited. Lake Nona sold many. But now? California looks better again, and that’s something a lot of us thought we’d never say.”
Disney, Newsom, Floridians, DeSantis spar over bill issue
However, Newsom was soon put down by many who Tweeted responses California’s issues, specifically pointing out the state’s financial and business issues, as well as California’s poor treatment of Disney during the pandemic when the Governor shut down Disneyland for 13 months due to COVID-19 concerns.
“Gavin Newsom kept Disneyland closed for 13 months straight,” tweeted DeSantis Press Secretary Christina Pushaw on Saturday. “But maybe you should reflect on why they left in the first place… And why so many Californians are fleeing your crime ridden dystopia for free states like Florida. CA weather is better, but progressivism destroyed the middle class.”
But maybe you should reflect on why they left in the first place…
And why so many Californians are fleeing your crime ridden dystopia for free states like Florida. CA weather is better, but progressivism destroyed the middle class.
A former Californian https://t.co/Ob0ONdfAga
— Christina Pushaw 🇺🇸 (@ChristinaPushaw) March 13, 2022
While both sides are still going after each other, many political experts noted on Monday that both California and Florida may be growing nervous of the situation.
“California does have a lot going against it for keeping companies like Disney, like being more controlling over businesses, like we saw with the shut downs, and being less business friendly. The high cost of living and other factors are not helping either,” said Ryan Hart, a Miami-based political consultant who has worked on several campaigns that stressed attracting business to come from states like California, to the Globe on Monday. “But Florida, and other Southern states who keep passing legislation like this, are worried. They don’t like liberals from California and New York and other places coming down here and changing state laws. To some, they see it as a new generation of carpet-bagging.”
“And they have also seen backlash. Companies have moved right out over anti-LGBT legislation, like with the North Carolina bathroom bill a few years ago. And companies don’t give moving events or offices out of the area if these things are passed too. Atlanta lost out on the MLB all-star game last year because of a voter law. May not seem all that big, but it cost Atlanta needed millions in economic help, and many businesses, who were relying on that, had to close as a result. So these companies are not afraid to pull money. Chapek just did that with political donations remember. The last thing Florida wants is for Disney to move back out to California from Florida.”
“Honestly, that is very unlikely to happen, but it’s scary now because, with so many employees not liking this, it’s beginning to be thought of, if Disney moves these jobs back. What if they move it to, say, that place they’re building out in the desert there? Again, Disney has put so much money here it’s nearly impossible, but seeing so many employees against this is worrying. These businesses that Florida and Texas have been touting on moving in are now becoming more and more at odds over the states for passing these laws.”
However, they also noted that what should be an economic issue has instead been politicized.
“Newsom and DeSantis are both speaking to their bases on this one. Absolutely,” added Hart. “This should be about jobs and improving economies and business friendliness. Instead, it’s being bogged down over LGBT and sexual orientation and sex ed issues. A lot of Floridians wanting to have the right to choose what is best for their kids don’t like a Governor from across the country getting on his high horse and trying to take jobs away.”
The Disney/bill situation is expected to continue to play out this week as DeSantis is likely to sign it into law soon.
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