Disneyland Unions Balk at Park Reopening Amid Pandemic

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

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

"Unfortunately, despite intensive talks with the company, we are not yet convinced that it is safe to reopen the parks on Disney's rapid timetable," warns The Coalition of Resort Labor Unions.

A number of unions representing Disneyland Resort workers are pushing back against the company's plan to reopen the theme park, shopping district and hotels next month as cases of the novel coronavirus are spiking across the country. 

The Coalition of Resort Labor Unions sent an open letter June 18 to Gov. Gavin Newsom expressing their concern for both workers and would-be park guests as Disney attempts to get state clearance for operation. The CRLU is made up of a dozen Disneyland unions, representing approximately 17,000 service members. The group says it has been working with the company to recall furloughed workers, but is not pleased with the results.  

"Unfortunately, despite intensive talks with the company, we are not yet convinced that it is safe to reopen the parks on Disney's rapid timetable," reads the letter, which is signed by 10 assorted Disneyland union presidents. 

Disney plans on reopening the Downtown shopping and dining district July 9. Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel will reopen July 23. Pending state and local government approvals, Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park will be opening July 17. The park, just like Walt Disney World, has been shuttered since mid-March due to the pandemic. Disney World will also reopen next month, all its approvals complete. 

Despite the ongoing talks between the company and California unions since it was announced this month Disney planned to reopen the Anaheim destination with strict new health and safety measures in place, the letter makes clear "we are not yet satisfied that it is safe to reopen." 

A separate online petition calling for Disney to push the reopening to a later date in the year has gained nearly 50,000 signatures. The person who began the petition was not identified. 

The CRLU wrote to Newsom, "Although Disney has provided some information and accommodated some of our concerns, such as the need for the company to take temperatures of all cast members as they enter the worksite, there are numerous questions about safety which Disney has not yet answered, including any serious discussion of 'testing' — which has been the cornerstone of plans for other areas of the entertainment industry reopening. Moreover, Disney has rejected or not yet responded to important safety proposals made by CRLU member unions. Therefore, at this point we do not know if the resort can be operated safely." 

The same day the union sent the letter to the governor's office, Disney posted a lengthy message from Dr. Pamela Hymel, Disney Parks chief medical officer, which was addressed to guests, saying in part, "We're taking a multi-pronged approach to our reopening, after considering the guidance of various governmental authorities and health agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and recommendations from our team of health and safety experts. We're also actively working with industry groups and research universities to discuss best practices." 

Hymel wrote, "At both parks, this includes reducing capacity; temperature checks for guests prior to entering our theme parks; increasing cleaning and disinfecting, especially in high-traffic areas; adjusting experiences to accommodate physical distancing; requiring face coverings for guests 2 and older; and empowering our guests with options like contactless payments and easy access to handwashing and hand sanitizer locations."