Disney is delaying a plan to relocate thousands of employees from California to Florida amid the entertainment giant’s battle with Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), a new report revealed this week.
Last summer, Disney announced that it would move 2,000 jobs to the Lake Nona community of Orlando, Florida, due to the state’s “business-friendly climate,” according to Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. But earlier this year, Disney leadership opposed parental rights legislation in Florida — leading DeSantis to declare that “Disney is a guest in Florida.” He signed legislation to end a special governing district that hosted Disney World, which allowed the firm to avoid certain state taxes and regulations.
In the wake of the new legislation, the move of 2,000 staff members was pushed to 2026, according to WDW News Today, which added that some employees were upset about the delay since they had already sold their homes in California.
Disney spokesperson Jacquee Wahler confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that though “a jobs will be growing number of employees” whose jobs will be based at a new campus have already moved, “we also want to continue to provide flexibility to those relocating, especially given the expected completion date of the campus is now in 2026.” Wahler said that Disney is “aligning the relocation period with the campus completion” as much as possible.
However, according to the Los Angeles Times, “When asked whether the relocation holdup was related to the DeSantis dispute, the Disney spokesperson said it was not.” This claim has not satisfied many industry insiders, with Jim Shull, a former Disney Imagineer, tweeting that this move was an example of Disney “sticking it to” DeSantis.
DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw told The Daily Wire that the governor has not discussed the delay with Disney. She noted, however, that Disney is far from the only large employer in Florida, which leads the nation in “both domestic migration and wealth migration.”
Indeed, Florida saw an influx of $23.7 billion in wealth amid taxpayer migration in 2020, according to IRS data, per the Wall Street Journal. These influxes starkly contrast with New York and California — both of which pursued aggressive lockdown policies in reaction to COVID-19 — saw respective net losses of $19.5 billion and $17.8 billion.
Disney acquired the Reedy Creek Improvement District — a 39-square-mile special governing and tax zone that hosted Disney World — under the leadership of founder Walt Disney. The property that would become Disney World was acquired at an average cost of $180 per acre — “an incredible feat considering that shortly after the announcement was made, a nearby acre sold for more than $300,000,” the Disney blog post says.
Gov. Claude Kirk (R-FL) signed the Reedy Creek Improvement Act in 1967 after a period of heavy lobbying from Disney the year after Walt Disney died. Yet Disney’s foray into progressive politics — specifically, its condemnation of a law that bans classroom discussion on sexual orientation and gender identity for children from kindergarten through third grade — prompted Florida officials to revoke the special privileges.
An exclusive poll from The Daily Wire conducted by market research technology platform Lucid in March revealed that 64% of Americans supported the parental rights legislation after they were presented with the current language of the law, which has been dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay ” bill by critics and some media outlets. The same poll showed that 67% of Americans believe Disney was “wrong” for opposing the law, as it “would protect children from inappropriate topics that should be discussed by parents.” There were no salient differences between Americans of different racial groups, and a clear majority of Democrats expressed support for the legislation.
“Someone said Disney has all these special perks,” DeSantis argued earlier this year. “Should you retaliate against them for them coming out and demagoguing this bill? I don’t believe you ‘retaliate,’ but I think what I would say is, as a matter of first principle, I don’t support special privileges in law just because a company is powerful, and they’ve been able to wield a lot of power.”
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