Actors’ Equity Association, the national labor union representing professional actors and stage managers in live theatre, said 720 of its 780 members employed by Walt Disney World have been laid off, part of the sweeping 28,000 staff reduction underway across the company’s U.S. parks business.
Before the pandemic, about 780 Equity members were employed at Walt Disney World, either full time, part time or seasonally, the union said. About 60 are currently working or about to return to work in the park. But 720 have now been laid off. According to the new Memorandum of Understanding with Disney, these laid-off workers maintain recall rights until the end of 2021.
“Our hearts go out to all the cast members at Walt Disney World,” said Kate Shindle, president of Actors’ Equity Association. “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.”
Disney’s parks business has been decimated by COVID. Walt Disney World opened in July at reduced capacity. Attention is focused on still shuttered Disneyland in Anaheim after California governor Gavin Newsom imposed heavy restrictions on the biggest parks leaving them no clear path to reopening any time soon.
Equity has been fighting for a governmental response to an arts industry shutdown since March, when it first asked for an economic relief package for an industry in crisis.
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