Netflix Workers Stage Walkout Today in Light of Chappelle Controversy
At 10:30 AM PT, Netflix employees staged a walk-out. This walkout comes in response to Netflix's response to Dave Chappelle's newest one hour special, The Closer. Insensitive jokes about transgender and non-binary people included in the special sparked this movement. When the streaming service decided to stand by keeping the special up on the site, the walkout was planned.
The Closer started streaming to the platform on October 5th. The controversy began at almost the same time. As soon as people watched the special, there was a general outcry that the jokes included were insensitive, violent, and insulting. Many called for the streaming service to take the special down from the site. The Netflix CEOs, however, refused. In an email to various members of the staff, CEO Ted Sarandos remarked:
Chappelle is one of the most popular stand-up comedians today, and we have a long-standing deal with him. ... As with our other talent, we work hard to support their creative freedom - even though this means there will always be content on Netflix some people believe is harmful, like Cuties, 365 Days, 13 Reasons Why or My Unorthodox Life...I recognize, however, that distinguishing between commentary and harm is hard, especially with stand-up comedy which exists to push boundaries. Some people find the art of stand-up to be mean-spirited but our members enjoy it, and it's an important part of our content offering.
Shortly following this email, confidential data was leaked. It was revealed publicly that Netflix had spent $24.1 million on Chappelle's controversial special, while specials such as Bo Burnham's Inside were acquired for only $3.9 million. While the numbers alone bear some cause for questioning, B. Pagels-Minor a transgender, pregnant, black former Netflix manager was fired for allegedly leaking the information. This too sparked outrage among the community. Pagels commented to Bloomberg that, "I collected the data, but I did not leak the data...It was just like 'Hey, you're the person! You're gone!'.
This morning Sarandos told Variety that:
Obviously, I screwed up that internal communication. I did that, and I screwed it up in two ways. First and foremost, I should have led with a lot more humanity. Meaning, I had a group of employees who were definitely feeling pain and hurt from a decision we made. And I think that needs to be acknowledged upfront before you get into the nuts and bolts of anything. I didn't do that. That was uncharacteristic for me, and it was moving fast and we were trying to answer some really specific questions that were floating. We landed with some things that were much more blanket and matter-of-fact that are not at all accurate.
This Wednesday, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos will be presented with firm asks/demands from Netflix employees that we will also be sharing with members of the press & rally attendees. Cross-cultural solidarity is an indomitable force that moves all of us forward. Come and join us. pic.twitter.com/cZbZFLBEfG— Ashlee Marie Preston (@AshleeMPreston) October 18, 2021
Regardless of these admissions of guilt, transgender people, non-binary people, and allies will be staging a walkout today with a list of demands for the company. These demands include, as summarized by
includes hiring trans and non-binary people to executive positions, creating a fund to support trans and non-binary talent, and adding disclaimers "that specifically flag transphobic language, misogyny, homophobia, hate speech, etc. as required." It doesn't ask for anything to be removed from the platform, nor does it mention Chappelle. Instead, it asks for the promotion of trans-affirming content alongside any content deemed anti-trans.
We will be here to update you on all of your Netflix walkout updates!