Disneyland Unions Send Letter to Gov. Newsom Saying "Path Exists" to Reopen

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

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

The group previously told the governor they were not satisfied with Disney's initial health and safety measures, but changes were made to their satisfaction.

On Saturday, seven unions representing more than 10,000 Disneyland Resort employees sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, asking him to issue guidelines for allowing the theme park to reopen. The letter was sent the same day a rally made up of employees and fans was held at the park.

The unions (Workers United Local 50, UFCW 324, I.A.T.S.E 504, BCTGM Local 83, I.E.S.A, AFM Local 7 and UNITE HERE Local 11) previously told Newsom they were not satisfied with Disney's initial health and safety measures, but changes were put in place to their satisfaction.

"We wrote you in June 2020 to tell you that we were not yet convinced that it was safe to reopen the parks on Disney’s timetable. Since then, Disney has taken safety measures we advocated, and engaged with their workers’ representatives, that our original position has changed," the unions' letter reads. "The company has provided detail on serious measures to protect workers via social distancing, providing PPE, addressing ventilation, and more. Most recently, the company unveiled a testing program, something we highlighted in our last letter to you."

Disney has agreements in place with unions covering 90 percent of its represented employees, a spokesperson said, adding that protocols have been successfully implemented at reopened parks around the world, including at Walt Disney World and Downtown Disney.

Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood have been shuttered since mid-March amid the pandemic. And while their counterparts in Florida reopened over the summer — with new health and safety measures in place — the battle to reopen the Southern California parks has been an ugly one.

During his weekly press conference, Newsom on Monday announced that guidelines for the theme parks would be released Tuesday. "We're going to break up the theme parks. It is not just one or two brands, it's many different parts that are part of theme park industry," he said. "I hope one recognizes our stubbornness on a health-first, data-driven decision-making process is done with our eyes wide open right now about what's happening around the world, not just the country," he said of case spikes. Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly will introduce the guidelines.

An impatient Disney in September drew a line in the sand and demanded that Newsom offer a path forward so that the company could reopen Disneyland. When Newsom did not budge, Disney announced that 28,000 employees — mostly from Disneyland, but also some from Walt Disney World — would be laid off. At the same time, Disney chairman Bob Iger resigned from the state's coronavirus economic task force.

Newsom seemed to soften a bit after that when Disney and the California Attractions & Parks Association blasted him as being "unreasonable." In turn, he sent a team to Disneyland and Universal Studios to see firsthand what precautions have been put in place. Newsom also sent a team to visit Disney World and Universal Orlando to see how they operate with customers on-site.

The unions in their Monday letter told Newsom it was time to reopen Disneyland, and they want to work with the state to ensure that happens in the near future.

"In consideration of all the aforementioned, we believe a path exists where Disneyland would be able to open safely when Orange County moves into the Orange tier," states the letter in part. "In our view, the effectiveness of public health agencies in addressing COVID-19 would benefit from coordination with worker representatives like ours that have practical knowledge and expertise regarding the challenges of addressing exposure risks. The guidelines will be safer and more effective with our input."

1:26 p.m.: Updated to note Newsom said theme park guidelines were coming Tuesday.