When Disneyland announced its closure amid concerns Coronavirus could spread within the resort, they set a date of March 31, 2020, a little over two weeks later, as the targeted end date for the closure. However, one look at the news and the rate of new reported COVID-19 infections across the United States and it’s clear that things will not be resolved in 5 days.
Workers United Local 50, along with other unions representing Disneyland Cast Members, has been trying to help its members through this tough time with information and food banks, but their efforts to get an answer from Disneyland as to when the park might reopen or, if they don’t know that, whether Disney will continue to pay cast members have been unsuccessful.
According to posts to the Union’s social media page, all the union has been able to get from Disneyland’s representatives is that cast members are scheduled through the end of March.
Obviously, not knowing if Disney will continue to pay them is putting some stress on the 23,000 cast members who work at the parks, resorts, and other locations in Anaheim. You also have to include the third-party vendors who have around 4,000 employees of their own in that. Tipped workers also haven’t heard back from Disneyland as to whether they’ll be made whole.
Frustrated, the unions that represent the majority of Disneyland’s cast members have written in unison asking Disneyland to get their members an answer as to what will happen after March 31, 2020.
The Letter to Walt Disney Parks and Resorts’ Vice President of Labor Relations reads in part:
“Our members, your cast members, are very concerned about their economic well-being after March 31. They are in a state of limbo and worried about medical insurance, rent, food and other necessities.”
“As you are aware, Universal Studios has announced they will continue paying employees until at least April 19. Disney continues to remain silent and, in fact, the posting of schedule hours going only through March 31 has resulted in cast member anxiety and uncertainty that Disney will not page wages and medical benefits may be interrupted.”
“Disney earned tremendous good will when it announced it would compensate cast members through March and all other theme parks followed your lead. It is now certain that the park will not re-open until well after March 31 and although it is our position that Disney maintain all cast members whole during the duration of the shutdown at the very least it should do no less than what Universal Studios is doing with their team members.”
The letter requests a response by 3pm tomorrow March 27.
When will Disneyland reopen? I doubt even Disneyland knows at this time.
It’s unlikely theme parks and other businesses where large numbers of people gather (large being 10 or more at a time) will get the greenlight to reopen until state and local authorities and health officials are satisfied that the risk of a new outbreak is minimal.
Some form of physical distancing, testing, and increased hygiene will have to continue until either 1) the novel coronavirus spread is contained and outbreaks are identified early via frequent testing or 2) we get a cure or vaccine. Option 1 could take anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks according to experts. But if we have to wait for option 2 because physical / social distancing isn’t taken serious and there isn’t robust testing and tracking, then were looking at something closer to 12 to 18 months. (See this article in The Atlantic for four potential paths back to normal)
No one wants that.
There is a slim possibility that this virus turns out not to be as virulent as World Health Organization experts have forecast, but it’s only a small chance and most states and counties don’t seem to be doing a great job of social distancing (although some parts of California got an early start and are seeing less spread of the virus). Many other parts of the country are not doing as well with containing the spread.
Also likely figuring into Disneyland’s decision to retain or fire cast members is the $2 Trillion Rescue Package that was passed by the US Senate this morning and will likely be passed by the US House of Representatives tomorrow. Provisions of that bill might require Disneyland to retain the vast majority of its employees to take advantage of forgivable loans that will help it pay for costs including wages, health insurance, and the like.
We urge Disneyland (and Walt Disney World, since the same circumstances apply there) to get back to its cast members as early as possible with an answer, even if that answer is “hey we’re waiting on the slow pokes in DC to know what’s best for you and the company. But we will do our best to care for you and reopen the parks and resorts in the long term.”
In the meantime, we all have to do our part. Stay at Home except for essential business. Follow CDC guidelines for self-isolation if you or someone in your home is feeling ill. Practice good hygiene and stay 6 ft away from others who aren’t part of your household. That sort of strict social distancing combined with widespread testing and tracking will give us the best chance of ending the Coronavirus pandemic as early as possible.
That’s what we all want and is the best practice, even if we luck out and the best cast scenario comes true. When you wish upon a star, right?