Disney announced in a statement on Sept. 29 that 28,000 employees will be laid off at both Disneyland and Disney World theme parks. The mass layoff has been attributed to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions in place, particularly in California by Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman, Josh D’Amaro.
“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,” reads a statement from D’Amaro released Tuesday. “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.”
Disney World opened their gates on July 11 to the public but California’s Disneyland remains closed.
In addition to the overwhelming number of layoffs, 67% of affected employees were part-time. Justin Gilmore, a part-time Disneyland employee and USC senior, was overcome by emotion when he first heard the news.
“It took me by surprise,” Gilmore said. “[The email to employees] was kind of like riding the Incredicoaster, it goes off, accelerates really quick. And then you’re just like, oh, this is great. Oh, no. Oh, yeah. Oh, no. And then, at the end, you’re just like, OK. That was a ride.”
The shocking news of the layoff has led to a variety of reactions from Disney Parks employees. A part-time Walt Disney World security guard, who asked to remain anonymous, expressed her frustrations.
“I don’t understand, they are going to lay off part timers, we don’t get any benefits, so we are not really costing them any money. Full-timers, they are paying for their health insurance… It’s a very sad feeling,” she said.
The Service Trades Council Union (STCU) is Disney World’s largest employee union, representing 43,000 Disney Cast Members. “We were disappointed to learn that the Covid-19 crisis has led Disney to make the decision to layoff Cast Members,” said the STCU on Twitter. “Disney workers have a voice at the table because of our Union. We have begun negotiations with the Company about this news and its impact to Union members.”
Disney Parks' closures in the United States has led to an economic crisis for the company as Disney World’s earnings account for 16% of the company’s total revenue. Governor Newsom is reportedly working with Disneyland officials to open the park “very soon” after receiving a letter from state assembly members urging him to open theme parks.