by Ray Keating
September 29, 2020
The Walt Disney Company announced today that it would be laying off 28,000 theme park workers due to continuing problems generated by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the inability to open its parks in Southern California.
According to various reports, including the Orange County Register, in a statement, Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney’s Parks, Experiences and Products division, said, “In light of the prolonged impact of COVID-19 on our business, including limited capacity due to physical distancing requirements and the continued uncertainty regarding the duration of the pandemic – exacerbated in California by the State’s unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen – we have made the very difficult decision to begin the process of reducing our workforce at our Parks, Experiences and Products segment at all levels, having kept non-working Cast Members on furlough since April, while paying healthcare benefits.”
Two-thirds of the 28,000 individuals being laid off will be part-time workers.
The Register reported: “Disney employs more than 100,000 at its U.S. theme parks — 32,000 at Disneyland and 77,000 at Disney World. Disney did not disclose how the 28,000 layoffs would be distributed between Anaheim and Florida.”
Here is the letter that D’Amaro signed to company employees (as provided by CNBC):
I write this note to you today to share some difficult decisions that we have had to make regarding our Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products organization.
Let me start with my belief that the heart and soul of our business is and always will be people. Just like all of you, I love what I do. I also love being surrounded by people who think about their roles as more than jobs, but as opportunities to be a part of something special, something different, and something truly magical.
Earlier this year, in response to the pandemic, we were forced to close our businesses around the world. Few of us could have imagined how significantly the pandemic would impact us -- both at work and in our daily lives. We initially hoped that this situation would be short-lived, and that we would recover quickly and return to normal. Seven months later, we find that has not been the case. And, as a result, today we are now forced to reduce the size of our team across executive, salaried, and hourly roles.
As you can imagine, a decision of this magnitude is not easy. For the last several months, our management team has worked tirelessly to avoid having to separate anyone from the company. We’ve cut expenses, suspended capital projects, furloughed our cast members while still paying benefits, and modified our operations to run as efficiently as possible, however, we simply cannot responsibly stay fully staffed while operating at such limited capacity.
As heartbreaking as it is to take this action, this is the only feasible option we have in light of the prolonged impact of COVID-19 on our business, including limited capacity due to physical distancing requirements and the continued uncertainty regarding the duration of the pandemic.
Thank you for your dedication, patience and understanding during these difficult times. I know that these changes will be challenging. It will take time for all of us to process this information and its impact. We will be scheduling appointments with our affected salaried and non-union hourly employees over the next few days. Additionally, today we will begin the process of discussing next steps with unions. We encourage you to visit The Hub or the WDI Homepage for any support you may need.
For those who will be affected by this decision, I want to thank you for all that you have done for our company and our guests. While we don’t know when the pandemic will be behind us, we are confident in our resilience, and hope to welcome back Cast Members and employees when we can.
Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products
The laid off workers have been furloughed, with the company paying health benefits, since April.
A Wall Street Journal report highlighted the frustrations that Disney and other theme park operators have had with the California state government. The Journal noted:
The state’s color-coded system ranks contagion risk into four tiers, from the purple Tier 1, for “widespread,” to Tier 4, yellow, for “minimal.” Each tier spells out restrictions for about 20 industries or other public establishments, including playgrounds, family-entertainment centers, wineries and nail salons. There are no guidelines specific to theme parks, a source of frustration for the industry and some lawmakers.
Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, said in a press conference Tuesday the state is “getting very close” to unveiling theme park-specific guidelines….
On Monday, a group of nearly 20 California legislators sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, urging him to consider allowing theme parks to reopen, noting that some indoor public spaces have already been cleared to reopen.
The Walt Disney Company’s stock price declined by almost 2 percent after the market’s close on Tuesday.
Also, get the paperback or Kindle edition of Ray Keating’s new book Behind Enemy Lines: Conservative Communiques from Left-Wing New York.