The Actors’ Equity Association has filed a grievance against Disney ahead of Walt Disney World’s scheduled reopening on July 11, saying that Disney retaliated against its member employees after the association demanded performers have access to on-site coronavirus testing.
Actors Equity, which represents around 750 performers of the 43,000 Walt Disney World employees (called “cast members”), says that on June 25 it demanded that all employees and performers be tested for coronavirus or be offered testing, which Disney World has not made plans to provide. Equity then claims that on June 26, Walt Disney World rescinded all rehearsal call notices that went out to Equity member performers on June 23.
Actor’s Equity represents 750 performers at Disney World. It’s unclear how many of those performers had initially received notices to attend rehearsals.
“Since our public request that Disney test performers in the park, there have been more than 114,000 new coronavirus cases in Florida,” Mary McColl, executive director of Actors’ Equity Association, said in a statement. “Rather than agree to testing of performers, Disney has decided to retaliate against workers fighting for a safe workplace during this pandemic.”
“Seven unions signed agreements to have their employees return to work, the Actors’ Equity rejected our safety protocols and have not made themselves available to continue negotiations, which is unfortunate. We are exercising our right to open without Equity performers,” a Disney spokesperson said in response.
While plans for Disney World to reopen have pushed forward with new safety protocols, as part of its phased reopening as listed on the Disney World website, many shows, parades and fireworks will remain limited or may remain closed. Meet and greets with cast members in costume as Disney characters have also been put on hold, though early videos and photos from the park that have surfaced on social media have shown rides with plexiglass dividers in queue lines and performers socially distanced while standing on a balcony from afar.
Equity’s criticism of reopening the Florida park came after Disney postponed plans for reopening Disneyland in Anaheim, California, on July 17. Meanwhile, in Orlando, the Magic Kingdom Park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park will reopen Saturday, followed by EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios on July 15.
While Disney has not disclosed the exact cap it is placing on attendance, it is expected that attendance at the parks will not be allowed to exceed 30%, the cap currently enforced at the recently reopened Shanghai Disneyland.
Florida has seen a surge in cases of COVID-19 since areas began reopening, and the state’s death toll has topped 4,000. Both Florida and California on Wednesday set new records for average daily cases, and 40 states have seen an uptick in cases as hospitalizations also continue to surge.