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Disney Fires 750 Union Performers

With no bargained-for COVID tests provided, CBA violated putting patrons at risk

Kris LaGrange's picture
Jul 10, 2020

Although cases of COVID-19 are at record highs in Florida, Disney World has decided to go forward with their reopening this weekend. As season pass holders streamed through the gates on Thursday for the soft open, one group of workers were missing from the park.

Back in May, UCOMM reported about a deal that was reached between the seven unions at Disney that makes up the Service Trades Council Union (STCU) and the company on parameters to reopen the park. These included mandatory facemasks, plastic barriers, temperature checks, and a host of other safety procedures. While STCU members were called back to work this weekend, members of Actor’s Equity say that Disney has used the pandemic to prevent their members from coming back.

Actors Equity represents about 750 performers at the park. On June 23rd, Disney began to issue notices telling cast members that they would be coming back to work the following week to begin rehearsals. Two days later on June 25th, the union requested that the company test all the performers for COVID-19 since it was impossible for them to socially distance during a show. This has been a common practice for other companies, like the NBA and MLB, that are trying to get restarted after the pandemic. The following day, Disney told the union that all recall notices would be rescinded and that they would reopen the park without Actor’s Equity members.

“Since our public request that Disney test performers in the park, there have been more than 114,000 new coronavirus cases in Florida,” said Mary McColl, executive director of Actors’ Equity Association. “Rather than agree to testing of performers, Disney has decided to retaliate against workers fighting for a safe workplace during this pandemic.”

The union has since filed a grievance against Disney World for retaliating against their members.

The testing issue isn’t unique to Disney World. At Disneyland in California, the park continues to be closed as the state sees increasing COVID-19 cases. The unions that represent the workers at Disneyland recently held a protest outside of the Anaheim park saying that the company was moving too fast in reopening. At the top of their list of demands before the park could reopen was COVID-19 testing for the Disney cast members.

For the time being all fireworks, parades, and indoor shows are canceled at Disney World, so it doesn’t appear that the company has hired scabs to replace the Actors Equity members. According to some early footage obtained at the soft open of the park for season pass holders, STCU members are wearing masks, with ride operators being seen wearing face shields, and temperature check stations are set up for everyone trying to enter the park.

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