After months of Disney's closed parks in California and limited capacity in its others, the company announced the "difficult" decision to let thousands of employees go.

By Anna Halkidis
September 30, 2020
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The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on companies around the country, leading to layoffs. The unemployment rate has seen a slight improvement, falling from 14.7 percent in May to 8.4 percent in August. But many companies are still struggling. This week, The Walt Disney Company said it could no longer hold on to all its staff amid shutdowns.

On Tuesday, Disney announced it laid off about 28,000 U.S. employees in its parks division in Florida and California. About 67 percent were part-time, but salaried and hourly workers were also affected.

“In light of the prolonged impact of COVID-19 on our business, including limited capacity due to physical distancing requirements and the continued uncertainty regarding the duration of the pandemic—exacerbated in California by the State’s unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen—we have made the very difficult decision to begin the process of reducing our workforce at our Parks, Experiences, and Products segment at all levels, having kept non-working Cast Members on furlough since April, while playing healthcare benefits,” Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney parks, experiences, and products, said in a statement.

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Disney’s theme parks closed down in the spring due to the pandemic. They have since reopened with limited capacity and safety protocol in Florida, Paris, Shanghai, Japan, and Hong Kong, but Disney California Adventure Park and Disneyland in Anaheim, California remain closed. Last week, D’Amaro urged California Governor Gavin Newsom to release safety and health guidelines to reopen the two parks. The parks, experiences, and consumer products play an important role for the company, bringing in 37 percent of its $69.6 billion in total revenue in 2019, according to CNBC.

“Over the past several months, we’ve been forced to make a number of necessary adjustments to our business, and as difficult as this decision is today, we believe that the steps we are taking will enable us to emerge a more effective and efficient operation when we return to normal,” D’Amaro said. “Our Cast Members have always been key to our success, playing a valued and important role in delivering a world-class experience, and we look forward to providing opportunities where we can for them to return.”

California has had more than 810,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 15,000 deaths, as of September 30. But Mark Ghaly, M.D., MPH, secretary of California Health and Human Services, said the state is working on a way to reopen the theme parks safely. “We know that a number of Californians are eager and wondering when that is coming, and we’re working with those industries to put out something that’s thoughtful, allows us to maintain the rest of our framework in a strong way, and really following those principles of slow and stringent to ensure those large activities are done responsibly,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

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