Disney workers reject park reopening plans as Covid cases increase

Walt disney Co.
It faces increasing pressure to postpone the reopening of its theme parks in the United States, with union officials and workers saying the recent jump in coronavirus cases makes it too dangerous to return to the Magic Kingdom.

Union officials representing workers at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, sought help from the California governor’s office to pressure Disney to reconsider its July reopening schedule. Tens of thousands of workers and members of the public have signed online petitions demanding that the company postpone the reopening of Disneyland and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

The resistance, unusual among Disney’s famous and loyal workforce, could lead to messy plans that Disney executives have spent months crafting and are in the early stages of execution. The first wave of workers has been told they will be laid off and they are expected to return to work in the coming weeks.

Disney joins a variety of companies, from fast food to warehouses, that have seen workers demand change or reluctance to return to jobs where employees interact with the public. The company has had to sell off to government officials in its reopening strategy, and it still needs to convince consumers to mask the requirements, and social distancing will keep them safe.

However, worker resistance may present the thorniest challenge to keep parks in time to reopen soon.

“The safety and well-being of our cast members and guests are at the forefront of our planning, and we are in active dialogue with our unions about the extensive health and safety protocols, following the guidance of public health experts,” he said. a Disney spokeswoman. .

In May, Disney first described plans to reopen Walt Disney World, and told local officials that the park would limit capacity, cancel crowd gathering events like fireworks, and require visitors to check its temperature. before entering. Disney plans to reopen the park’s Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom areas on July 11; Epcot and Disney Hollywood Studios are expected to follow on July 15.

Disneyland is expected to follow a similar protocol when it resumes operations on July 17, the 65th anniversary of the park’s opening, an event expected to draw fans who want to buy pins and exclusive shirts to commemorate the day.

In some cases, Disney is calling workers for seniority, employees say. Some laid-off Disney workers said they were not eager to return while collecting more income from unemployment payments than they would earn at the park.

Disney is one of the most prominent examples of emerging tension as companies call on employees to return to their jobs.

Solo restaurant owners and franchisees of big chains like McDonald’s Corp.
worry that employees will not show up if they are afraid of contracting the virus. In April, Amazon.com INC.
He fired at least three workers who say they were pushing for better conditions in the workplace while dealing with increased orders during the pandemic, a charge the company denied.

While many Disney employees initially expressed enthusiasm for returning to their jobs, some have watched with caution as the number of positive cases of coronavirus increases as restrictions are loosened.

A union consortium representing some 17,000 Disneyland workers sent a letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom earlier this month saying that the company had not provided enough information to make its members feel safe in the park.

“Disney has rejected or has yet to respond to important security proposals … at this time we do not know if the complex can operate safely,” the letter said.

In Orlando, any changes to Disney World’s reopening schedule could interrupt plans to resume the National Basketball Association season.

NBA teams are slated to begin arriving in central Florida on July 7 for a season played at Disney World that could last until mid-October. But in the days since the league sent teams 113 pages of lifelong health and safety protocols in their Disney World bubble, NBA officials have watched local data on virus cases with concern.

While strict regulations will discourage players from leaving the NBA campus, including a quarantine of at least 10 days, the bubble itself will not be airtight as Disney staff will be able to enter and exit without testing. The league says that Disney employees will not be allowed to be in the same rooms at the same time as the players.

Write to Erich Schwartzel at [email protected]