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Netflix employees plan a walkout today as Dave Chappelle controversy continues to escalate

Organizers say today’s walkout is a way of demonstrating how much support Netflix’s trans community has in the workplace.

Netflix employees plan a walkout today as Dave Chappelle controversy continues to escalate
[Source Images: kasinv/iStock]

The controversy over Dave Chappelle’s new comedy special is queued up to reach an all-new high today. A group of Netflix trans employees and their allies have planned a walkout this morning at the company’s Los Angeles headquarters to protest Chappelle’s The Closer. Described as a chance for Chappelle to “get a few things off his chest,” it features him complaining at great length about how he believes the LGBTQ community gets offended too easily. Critics responded by calling Chappelle’s jokes harmful, and since then the show’s continued spiraling into a larger headache for Netflix.

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Netflix co-CEOs Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos have spent most of this time defending their decision to air the Chappelle special, notably in a companywide memo stating that “content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm.” But a transgender Netflix software engineer who criticized Chappelle in a viral Twitter thread says she’s received “threats of violence” and “an enormous amount of transphobic vitriol.” Netflix also fired a worker last week—who turned out to be a transgender program manager—for allegedly leaking confidential information that Netflix claims revealed internal metrics and financial figures relating to The Closer, which didn’t help to calm down the dispute.

Organizers say today’s walkout is therefore a way of demonstrating how much support Netflix’s trans community has in the workplace. A rally is scheduled to happen after the walkout, and organizer Ashlee Marie Preston says they’ve had to relocate to a larger site because of “overwhelming demand.” They’re also planning to present a list of demands to Netflix executives.

They haven’t officially released that list yet, but the Verge got hold of the letter to executives that was reportedly drafted by the Trans* Employee Resource Group, the group responsible for today’s protest.

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While the whole mess has grown into a bona-fide culture-wars fight over what constitutes hate speech versus what constitutes censorship, none of the organizers’ demands actually involve canceling Chappelle’s special. According to the Verge, among the ones on the list are: Netflix giving the Trans* Employee Resource Group a greater voice internally when it comes to potentially hurtful content, hiring trans and nonbinary executives, and eliminating images and content around the office that they say are transphobic.

Meanwhile, Sarandos already seems to be in image-rehabilitation mode. In two separate interviews published yesterday, he told the Wall Street Journal and Variety that he’d “screwed up” by penning that memo and in some of the other ways he’s handled employee concerns. “To be clear,” he said, “storytelling has an impact in the real world . . . sometimes quite negative.”

Reached for comment, a Netflix spokesperson said: “We value our trans colleagues and allies, and understand the deep hurt that’s been caused. We respect the decision of any employee who chooses to walk out, and recognize we have much more work to do both within Netflix and in our content.”

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