The latest wave of COVID-19 layoffs at Walt Disney World has affected the vast majority of the unionized performers around the resort’s theme parks.
According to the Actors’ Equity Association, the union that represents actors and stage managers in live theatre, 720 of its 780 members at Disney World have lost their jobs as part of the 28,000 layoffs Disney is instituting across its theme park division.
“Our hearts go out to all the cast members at Walt Disney World,” Kate Shindle, president of Actors’ Equity Association, said in a statement. “Disney has made it clear that our members would face work reductions since they announced layoffs of nearly 28,000 employees. That does not make this news any less painful. These reductions are another tragic reminder that until the virus is brought under control with a national strategy for masks, testing and contact tracing, everyone who works in the arts needs help like extended pandemic unemployment insurance and federal COBRA health insurance subsidies.”
Equity actors were furloughed along with other Disney World workers in April. They were not part of the employees recalled to work in June and July, and stage shows across the resort have remained shuttered with the exception of “For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
According to WDW News Today, the entertainment cuts affect street performers such as the Citizens of Hollywood to long-running shows like the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, “Finding Nemo – The Musical,” and the “Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue.”
The Orlando Sentinel reports that Disney appears to be laying off 20 percent of its Orlando workforce, or more than 15,500 employees. That’s despite Disney World having reopened in July. Other Orlando theme parks, including Universal and SeaWorld, have also undergone large-scale layoffs since reopening.
Disney’s theme park division has to contend with shutdowns in other parts of the world. Disneyland has not been allowed to reopen since it first closed in mid-March. Disneyland Paris Resort will have to shut down again this Friday due to France’s second national lockdown, which is scheduled to continue through at least December 1.
Despite Disney’s mass layoffs, the company reportedly restored full pay to thousands of executives in late August. When Democratic Sen. and former presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren criticized the company’s “short-sighted” decisions, Disney’s response sidestepped her question about restoring executive pay.
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