Yesterday, Netflix employees protested against the company's handling of the Dave Chappelle special. It premiered October 5. Ashlee Marie Preston, a trans activist based in Los Angeles, hosted a rally to support the workers who participated in the walkout. Netflix stars Jonathan Van Ness, Queer Eye, and Mason Alexander Park, Cowboy Bebop, and The Sandman, expressed solidarity in a video created for the rally. They were joined by other trans advocates such as Angelica Ross and Kate Bornstein.
We are proud of our trans friends and colleagues, and we understand the pain that has been caused. In a statement to TechCrunch, a spokesperson for Netflix said that we respect any employee's decision to leave. We also recognize the work ahead of us both in Netflix and our content.
Although the exact numbers of those who participated in the solidarity rally and employee walkout are not known, there was enough buzz that Preston moved the event to a more convenient location.
They wrote a letter requesting that Netflix adopts measures to prevent future incidents of hate speech and transphobia being promoted by employees who took part in the walkout. They demand that Netflix address their demands regarding content investment, safety and employee relations, as well as harm reduction.
The group is asking Netflix to invest more in trans and nonbinary content. They also want to bring together employee resource groups to have conversations about harmful content. They want Netflix to increase safety and employee relations by recruiting trans people, particularly BIPOC, to leadership positions, to allow employees to be removed from promotional content such as allyship videos and diversity videos and to eliminate references and imagery to transphobic titles or talent in the workplace. They want Netflix to acknowledge that it has promoted transphobic content on its platform and add a disclaimer.
These demands don't include the removal of the controversial Dave Chappelle Netflix special, which has sparked backlash by some Netflix subscribers and employees concerned about the company's promotion of transphobic speech.
Ted Sarandos, co-CEO of the Hollywood Reporter was not asked if he would fulfill the demands of the group.
The last few days have been spent listening to people and finding out what their feelings are. Sarandos stated to the Hollywood Reporter that they are committed to inclusion in the workplace and on the screen.
brb walking out Most (@Most), October 20, 2021
He appeared unsure if he would agree to their request to include a disclaimer regarding transphobia before Chapelles special.
The content is already age-restricted for language and Dave himself makes a very clear warning at the start of the show. I don't think that would be appropriate in this instance, he stated.
Employees raised concerns about the potential dangers of anti-trans jokes on the Chappelle special. Chapelle claimed that he is Team TERF. This refers to trans-exclusionary radical feminists who oppose the movement in favor of transgender rights. Sarandos defended the special and wrote an internal email stating that the content on the screen does not directly translate into real-world harm.
Terra Field, a senior software engineer at Netflix, is transgender and tweeted a viral message about the Chappelle special.
She wrote that she wasn't complaining about being offended and that her skin isn't thin. We object to the harm that such content does to trans people (especially transpeople of color), and specifically to trans women of colour.
According to reports, Field and two other employees were later fired for trying to attend an online meeting with top executives. However, she was reinstated when Netflix discovered that a director shared a link with her to the meeting, suggesting that it was OK to attend.
Many things are possible to be true. Netflix is a life-changing company. Netflix made major mistakes. This is a moment of greatness for Netflix employees. We have the privilege and responsibility to make a difference on and off the platform. #NetflixWalkout Dana Herlihey (@danaherlihey) October 20, 2021
Shortly thereafter, Netflix's trans employee resource group organized a walkout. B. Pagels Minor, organizer of the walkout, and global leader of both the Black- and Trans-employee resource groups, was fired Friday. More backlash against Netflix was triggered by their termination.
A Netflix representative said that we have fired an employee who shared confidential and commercially sensitive information with the company. This was disclosed to TechCrunch last Wednesday. While we understand that the employee might have been hurt by Netflix's service, maintaining trust and transparency are core values of our company.
TechCrunch was able reach B. Pagels Minor, but they didn't offer a comment.
The leak appears to have been information from The Closer. It was revealed in a Bloomberg story, which claimed that Netflix spent $24.1million for the special. The company also spent $3.9million on Bo Burnham's comedy special Inside, and $21.4million on the buzzy, nine episode Squid Game, Netflix's most successful debut.
TechCrunch was told by Netflix that the employee had admitted to sharing the content. The lawyer for Pagels-Minors told the New York Times that B. Pagels-Minors lawyer told the New York Times this week that B.
TechCrunch was told by Netflix that it had only one individual access its internal logs that showed sensitive data regarding the titles in the Bloomberg article.