A group of Netflix employees is set to stage a walkout later today in hopes of building a work environment that better supports trans and non-binary staffers.
Many outsiders and reporters have tied the walkout to Dave Chappelle's new comedy special, The Closer. During Chappelle's newest release he labels himself as a "TERF," declares that "gender is a fact" and makes several other statements that have been characterized as transphobic. After The Closer debuted, Netflix Senior Software Engineer Terra Field shared a series of viral tweets critiquing Chappelle's special and reportedly attempted to attend a managerial meeting to express those issues. In return, The Verge reports that Field and two other Netflix workers were suspended for attempting to speak out against the treatment of trans and non-binary employees at that meeting.
"For the record, this is actually what silencing someone looks like. Queer and trans-Netflix employee, Terra Field, was suspended from her job for confronting management for platforming Chappelle's transphobic comedy special," Alejandra Caraballo of the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard Law School said.
Not long after Field was suspended, another Netflix employee by the name of B. Pagels-Minor was terminated for allegedly leaking "confidential, commercially sensitive information" regarding The Closer to media outlets. Pagels-Minor has refuted these allegations and stated that the company made its decision without hearing from them.
"I collected the data, but I did not leak the data," Pagels-Minor told NPR.
"It was just like: 'Hey, you're the person. You're gone."
Pagels-Minor says that this walkout goes far deeper than Chappelle's remarks, Field's suspension and their termination. While working at Netflix, Pagels-Minor co-led an employee resource group called Trans* and was a member of another employee resource group called Black@. Initially, members of both groups were planning to take paid time off to deal with the chaos that has followed Chappelle's newest special. However, things escalated when employees began to feel that people in positions of power weren't listening to the concerns that were being expressed. Over time, an orchestrated effort to utilize PTO turned into a high-profile walkout. To accompany the walkout, the group has put together a list of changes it would like to see in their work environments and Netflix's front-facing content. Contrary to popular belief, the list of demands doesn't call for the company to cut ties with Chappelle or have The Closer taken down from the platform. Instead, employees involved in the effort want a more welcoming space for trans and non-binary workers that will empower them to succeed.
"Over the past few weeks, it has become clear that there are many places where Netflix still has to grow when it comes to content relating to the trans and non-binary community. The Trans* Employee Resource Group, which includes trans and non-binary colleagues as well as our numerous allies, wants Netflix to immediately take the steps below to begin to repair the relationship between the Company, our colleagues, and our audience," members of Trans* wrote in a letter obtained by The Verge.
"We are employees, but we are members, too. We believe that this Company can and must do better in our quest to entertain the world, and that the way forward must include more diverse voices in order to avoid causing more harm. The Trans* ERG looks forward to working with the Company to make this a better, more entertaining place for us all."
The walkout is set to begin on the morning of October 20. In addition, there will be a rally at 10:30 a.m. PT near the Netflix EPIC Building.