Disney Workers Caravan to State Capitol, Urging Gov. Newsom's Adoption of Hospitality Workers Retention Bill

Disneyland Anaheim Park on March 14 2020 - H
David McNew/Getty

A closed Disneyland in Anaheim, California on March 14, 2020.

On Tuesday, Disney announced it would lay off 28,000 employees due largely to Disneyland not being allowed to reopen.

A group of Disney employees on Wednesday will caravan to the state capitol in an effort to urge Gov. Gavin Newsom to immediately sign AB 3216, which would guarantee recall and retention for hospitality workers, according to one union.

The move comes one day after the Walt Disney Co. announced it would layoff 28,000 employees from its Parks division; a decision largely based on the fact that Disneyland is not currently allowed to reopen under the state's coronavirus tier-based system. Approximately 28,000 "domestic employees" will be affected by the layoff decision, according to the company. About 67 percent are part-time workers.

“Our members have given decades of their lives to companies like Disney. Now through no fault of their own, they are being laid off. We urge Gov. Gavin Newson to sign AB 3216 a lifeline for hospitality workers," Ada Briceño, Chair of the Democratic Party of Orange County and co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11 said in an emailed statement. Disney will lay off approximately 950 of that union's nearly 3,000 members. That union is taking part in the caravan.

Introduced by Assemblymember Ash Kalra, AB 3216, or "Right to recall," allows travel and hospitality employees — laid off due to the pandemic — to be given preferential treatment once rehiring commences.

In addition to Disney unions, SAG-AFTRA and the unions for MLB and the NFL also support the bill. "Hospitality workers are the backbone of an industry that almost entirely shuttered due to COVID-19. Like many members of SAG-AFTRA, those workers, who often live from paycheck to paycheck, lost their jobs almost overnight, with very little to fall back on to weather a once-in-a-century economic collapse," Gabrielle Carteris, SAG-AFTRA president wrote Tuesday.

Disneyland has been shuttered since mid-March. A plan was in place to begin reopening the SoCal destination in July, but that was all sidelined when novel coronavirus cases skyrocketed statewide, forcing state and local officials to roll back business operations permissions.

The layoff announcement came exactly one week after Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences & Products essentially demanded that Disneyland be allowed to reopen. "Help us reopen. We need guidelines that are fair and equitable," he said at the time. D’Amaro went on to say that the "longer we wait" the more "damage" would be done to the local economy and furloughed employees.

In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter concerning the Disney layoffs, Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, a senior health advisor for the State of California said, "The COVID 19 pandemic has impacted the health and livelihoods of too many workers across this country. In California, our number one priority is to lead with public health to slow the spread of the virus to begin reopening our economy and get Californians back to work safely and sustainably."

Shuttered since mid-March, a plan was in place to begin reopening Disneyland in July, but that was all sidelined when novel coronavirus cases skyrocketed statewide. The Walt Disney World Resort in Flordia has been reopened — albeit with strict health measures and decreased capacity — since July.

12:13 p.m.: Updated with statements from SAG-AFTRA and the unions for MLB and the NFL, in support of AB 3216.