About 50 Walt Disney World cast members protested Friday against the company’s vaccine mandate. Members held signs near Disney Springs reading “coercion is not consent” and chanted, “My body, my choice.”
All Disney cast members must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 22 and must receive their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine by Saturday.
Nick Caturano, the march organizer who has served as a cast member for 16 years, said while most drivers honked in support along Lake Buena Vista Boulevard, others flipped the bird.
He hopes the march will stir up a national conversation and begin a fight for people’s constitutional and medical rights.
“People are free to get this vaccine if they feel it’s going to be the best thing for them but to force people to get the vaccine, that’s another story,” Caturano said.
Caturano said he has received thousands of emails, including from international Disney cast members who said they’re afraid to speak up and don’t know whom to trust. Caturano said some cast members feared losing their jobs. One Disney employee, he said, pulled him to the side to thank him for his efforts but ran off after seeing too many news cameras.
“I don’t want to lose my job,” he said. “I love my job, but I’m also more afraid that if I don’t speak up now, where does it stop?”
The Walt Disney Company announced in July and August that all salaried employees and union workers must be fully vaccinated by Friday, Oct. 22. This would require cast members to receive their first Pfizer shot by Saturday, Sept. 18.
Caturano, who is immunocompromised, said he is refusing to get vaccinated because of natural immunity and religious beliefs.
“I’m not comfortable with taking it,” he said. “I just can’t see putting it in my body.”
Companies can make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC requires companies with mandates to provide a reasonable accommodation in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Title VII covers workplace-discrimination issues, which include protected religious beliefs.
A Disney representative did not immediately respond on Friday to the Miami Herald’s request for comments.