NBCUniversal staffers raise concerns over political donations
Following the employee backlash at Disney, Comcast NBCUniversal employees are raising concerns about their company’s political action committee supporting politicians who advance anti-LGBTQIA+ causes.
More than 300 employees signed a petition calling out the Comcast Corp. and NBCUniversal PAC’s donations to candidates that supported Florida legislation that banned classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation from kindergarten to the third grade, according to an employee who signed the petition and declined to be named because the person was not authorized to speak on the matter. The legislation was nicknamed by opponents as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill.”
“For the diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace and world Comcast/NBCUniversal publicly declares allegiance to, we ask that these antithetical donations be acknowledged, internally and externally, and that the company pledge to reevaluate the criteria used to make political donations accordingly,” the petition states.
NBCUniversal declined to comment on the employees’ request in the petition.
The effort comes the month before Pride, when many companies tout their support for the LGBTQIA+ community. Some employees believe the political donations undermine the efforts that NBCUniversal and Comcast have made to be more inclusive, by supporting candidates that harm the rights of LGBTQIA+ people.
Since George Floyd’s murder, employees at a wide variety of companies have spoken out and pushed their employers to commit to supporting diverse or marginalized communities. Over the last year, media companies such as Disney and Netflix have come under fire from their employees for how they have handled issues related to the LGBTQIA+ community. For example, last fall, Netflix employees walked out after raising concerns about transphobic language used in Dave Chappelle’s comedy special.
Disney employees walk out to keep up the pressure on CEO Bob Chapek after his handling of a staff revolt over Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill.
Comcast/NBCUniversal employees said in their petition that they believe the company’s political action committee gave $92,000 to supporters of the “Don’t Say Gay and Trans” bill, citing website Popular Information, which is run by Judd Legum, who had worked for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
The company’s PAC paid $13,000 from 2012 to 2016 to Ron DeSantis, who in March signed the bill into law as Florida’s governor, according to the Federal Election Commission.
Employees met with NBCUniversal Chief Diversity Officer Craig Robinson and other executives in the spring about their concerns and those that supported the effort encouraged other staffers to sign the petition that circulated after the meeting to indicate how many people felt the same way, according to an employee who signed the petition but declined to be named because the person lacked authorization to speak on the topic.
Jared Leto won an Oscar for it. Jeffrey Tambor won two Emmys and a Golden Globe for it.
Comcast and NBCUniversal have taken public stances in support of diversity and inclusion. In 2020, Comcast committed $100 million over three years “to fight injustice and inequality against any race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation or ability.”
NBCUniversal, which launched “Will & Grace” — the first sitcom with gay main characters — was among a group of companies that signed the Human Rights Campaign’s business statement against anti-LGBTQ state legislation, Robinson said in a March memo on International Transgender Day of Visibility. The company has 70,000 employees.
Robinson also wrote that Comcast NBCUniversal would run public service announcements in partnership with GLAAD that feature a family with a transgender child and advocates for people to stand with them for equality.
“This action builds on our longtime support for equality, including in 2021 when Comcast NBCUniversal joined the business coalition in support of the Equality Act, and the amicus briefs we signed before the U.S. Supreme Court advancing nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ workers and advocating for marriage equality in 2019 and 2015, respectively,” Robinson wrote.
But employees who signed the petition said those efforts were undermined by the company’s PAC donations. It seems hypocritical for the company to have messaging that indicates “we stand with these marginalized communities and they actively work to harm those communities,” an employee who signed the petition said.
Times researcher Scott Wilson contributed to this report.
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