Regular COVID-19 testing for Disneyland employees is the key sticking point between the resort and labor unions, according to one union leader.
The Coalition of Resort Labor Unions, whose member unions represent 17,000 workers at the Disneyland Resort, questioned whether the resort could be operated safely in a letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom last week. Though Disney has since delayed the planned June 17 reopening of its two California parks — citing the lack of state guidelines, not union opposition — labor leaders are still planning a caravan protest outside the resort on Saturday to voice their concerns over safety.
Chris Duarte, president of Workers United Local 50, which represents food and beverage cast members at Disneyland, said the purpose of the letter was to let government officials know unions and the resort had not resolved safety concerns ahead of reopening.
“It’s not that we don’t want the park to reopen,” Duarte told Theme Park Tribune. “We have a significant portion of members that want to work.”
Disney plans to implement a number of new safety measures aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19, from requiring guests and workers to wear face masks to limiting capacity to allow for physical distancing in shops, restaurants, queues, and attractions.
Unions are still negotiating on the testing issue, but Duarte said his side is seeking a more “proactive” testing process for COVID-19. By otherwise relying on contact tracing done through public health departments, days may pass before employees who have been exposed to an infected person are warned to get tested themselves.
“What we’re looking for is some regular testing for employees to actively prevent an outbreak,” he said.
Employee testing has not been a part of the publicly-announced deals Disney has reached with other unions, including those with other Disneyland unions.
Walt Disney World’s union agreement for reopening includes measures like providing a thermometer to any cast member who requested one and no punishment for calling out sick with COVID-19 symptoms — but the plan did not mention testing.
The local areas around both Disney World and Disneyland are seeing an increased number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks. In Orange County, California, more than 2,500 new cases have been confirmed in the last week and 70 more people have been hospitalized.
“It definitely feels, more so in the last week, that more members are becoming hesitant to return to work immediately, not knowing that everything’s being done to maintain a safe environment,” Duarte said.