For Disney workers, many may have no choice but to shoulder the risks of returning to the world’s most visited theme park, with some expressing fears about the Covid-19 risk and for their livelihoods .
There are about 75,000 employees at Disney World in Florida and about 30,000 at Disneyland in California, and they’re coming back as cases increase in both states.
“The imminent danger of loss of health and financial security is a concern most of us share about reopening and the fear of closing,” said Dan Rey, 25-year Disney server and shop steward. at Unite Here. .
Rey has yet to be called back to work, but is among thousands of Disney employees who went several weeks before receiving unemployment benefits. Many workers in Florida still haven’t had their claims processed and paid. On July 26, federal unemployment benefits expire, leaving Florida workers to survive on only the state’s maximum weekly benefit of $ 275.
“People are afraid of returning to work because of the imminent threat of contracting Covid, since we, Florida, are now the epicenter of the world of this pandemic, and they are also afraid of not returning to work because we do not have no financial means. support, ”Rey said. “The real problem is we can’t afford not to work. Our governor here in Florida always makes excuses rather than plans. There are still people who have not received financial support because the unemployment system is so broken.
Mike Beaver, an attraction employee with Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom for about 20 years, returned to work on June 29.
“When it was announced that Disney World would be reopening the parks, I thought it was too early, even though some other parks had reopened before Disney,” Beaver said. He said during a temperature check that he was sent to work, despite receiving a reading that would not be recorded on the thermometer.
Bryan Amstutz, a vacation planner at Walt Disney World, said only a third of his department has returned to work so far and he doesn’t expect to be called back until January 2021 or later. “I am not paid enough to control Covid-19,” Amstutz said.
Parts of Disneyland in Anaheim, California have begun a gradual reopening, awaiting approval from local and state authorities to reopen parks and hotels.
“My main concern about returning to work is this: I have young children and my mother is elderly. I cannot take the coronavirus home. It is not really safe to return to work. Cases are on the rise in California, ”said Inez Guzman, who has worked for five years in housekeeping at the Disneyland hotel.
Glynndana Shevlin, a 32-year Disneyland food and beverage worker, wants to return to work for fear of losing her current apartment, which she has lived in for the past two years after being homeless. But she is also concerned for her safety and that of her colleagues and guests. One of his friends and colleagues is currently hospitalized with coronavirus.
“I live alone and I’m in my sixties. I am really concerned about going back to work in the sense of safety. We want onsite testing for the coronavirus to be available if we need it, and all kinds of safety procedures in place, ”Shevlin said. “When I come home at night, I don’t want to worry about whether I’m going to be sick and whether I’m sick, whether I’m going to be able to get the right medications, the health care, whether I go. have a sufficient salary.
Union requests on-site testing
Unite Here, Local 11 is currently in negotiations with Disney over safety protocols and protections for workers when the parks reopen.
Austin Lynch, an organizer involved in the negotiations with Disney, said the union pushed Disney to agree to perform daily temperature checks for workers before they started shifts, and agreed to provide as much. personal protective equipment to workers they need.
But the union is still pushing Disney to provide on-site coronavirus testing for workers, pledges to ensure staff levels are provided to do additional cleaning and disinfection, and to expand checks temperature for guests staying at Disney hotels.
“They haven’t covered some of the critical security areas. Until they do, we don’t think it’s safe to reopen, ”Lynch said. “You have to either cover all the bases and do everything to prevent transmission, or operate in an insecure manner. Operating and only covering some of the bases just means people are going to contract coronavirus.
A Disney representative told The Guardian that the opening of Disneyland is pending guidance from state officials, while worker training, a range of health and safety, cleaning, disinfection and technological solutions had been implemented before the reopening of Disney World.
“As we continue to gradually reopen our parks and resorts around the world, promoting the health and safety of our customers, cast members and the community at large is a responsibility we take seriously. . From increased cleaning and sanitizing at our parks and resorts to updated health and safety policies, we’ve redesigned the Disney experience so we can all enjoy the magic responsibly, ”said representative in an email.