Walt Disney World laying off over 700 entertainers
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - As Walt Disney World continues its layoffs of 28,000 workers, some entertainers hope both their shows and work return to the theme parks after the pandemic.
"Knowing that my 33-year association with Walt Disney World has come to an end, it’s pretty heartbreaking," said Delisa Dean.
Dean loved working as a substitute singer at Voices of Liberty in Epcot but was just let go.
"Because I’m 64, I assumed I was going to be let go based on my age, and then when I got on Facebook and I realized what kind of a massacre it was it felt like just everything."
Classics like the Indiana Jones Stunt Show and Festival of the Lion King are gone.
Kristi DeRubertis of the Kingdom Insider Blog said it was devastating to see hundreds laid off and more than a dozen shows suspended
"There’s the Citizens of Hollywood, who walk around Hollywood Studios -- the Main Street -- and then there’s Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue, which is an iconic legendary show. The Shake it, Move it Dancers, they’re gone. Turtle Tuck with Crush is gone."
DeRubertis said she is concerned it will affect the Disney experience and possibly sale of annual pass holders.
Many Disney shows and parades have been modified or canceled since the pandemic for safety measures to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19.
"If you’re in close quarters and someone sneezes on you, you could potentially get coronaries," explained Dr. Jason Littleton, an Orlando-area family physician
He said it’s safer to wait after the pandemic.
"It’s totally bittersweet. I understand it’s to protect the common good, but those shows, we all love them. And we just have to wait for them to open up again."
The union that represents Disney entertainers said 720 were laid off. They released a statement which read, in part, “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.”
Dean said her husband is on social security and is looking for other ways to earn money.
"I do feel very blessed to had the time I’ve had with this amazing group of singers," she said. "My heart goes out to hundreds of people."
The Kingdom Insider has posted a list of shows suspended
Below is the full statement from Entertainers Union:
WALT DISNEY WORLD LAYOFFS REACH EQUITY MEMBERS
New York – Actors' Equity Association, the national labor union representing professional actors and stage managers in live theatre, released the following statement after signing a memorandum of understanding with Walt Disney World regarding layoffs of most of their Equity member employees.
“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.”
Before the pandemic, about 780 Equity members were employed at Walt Disney World, either full time, part time or seasonally. About 60 are currently working or about to return to work in the park. About 720 Equity member workers have now been laid off. According to the new MOU with Disney, these laid-off members maintain recall rights until the end of 2021.
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. The union then fought for the passage of the CARES Act in March, helping expand the bill to apply to arts workers who lost future work. It is currently fighting for passage of the HEROES Act, as well as a full COBRA subsidy for workers who have lost their employment-based insurance.
ACTORS' EQUITY ASSOCIATION, founded in 1913, is the U.S. labor union that represents more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers. Equity endeavors to advance the careers of its members by negotiating wages, improving working conditions and providing a wide range of benefits (health and pension included). Member: AFL-CIO, FIA. www.actorsequity.org #EquityWorks
On Friday, Bettina Buckley, vice president of Walt Disney World Resort Live Entertainment, issued a statement on the layoffs of its live performers.
She wrote on the Disney Parks Blog, in part:
"Walt Disney World Resort offers a treasure trove of experiences for guests of all ages. We recognize that part of the magic of visiting any Disney park is seeing favorite Disney friends and discovering one-of-a-kind shows and performances. Since reopening, we’ve continued to offer modified character experiences and entertainment throughout our resort, while also taking the appropriate steps for the health and safety of our guests and cast members."
"Recently, we’ve had to make some difficult decisions to reduce our workforce as the business impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic have become more long-lasting than anyone could have predicted. As a result, we’ve had to pause many live shows and entertainment experiences at our resort for longer than originally anticipated."
The post ended with: "Like most of our fans, we know that our beloved entertainment cast are an incredibly special and essential part of the Disney experience. We look forward to the day when we can welcome back more live entertainment to our parks, and we will share more news about these announcements as we’re able to do so."