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A Sad Day At The Mouse House: 30,000 Disney Workers Furloughed in SoCal

Sleeping Beauty's Castle at Disneyland, California. (Chava Sanchez/ LAist)
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The pain for Disney workers has begun.

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With its dozen theme parks shut down, cruise ships empty and movie releases postponed, the Walt Disney Co. has reportedly made the first round of job cuts announced earlier this month: 30,000 people who work at Disneyland, California Adventure, three Disney hotels and Downtown Disney are getting furloughed.

The Burbank-based company and union officials say about 43,000 staff will be furloughed from the Disney World resort in Orlando.

Disney said it will continue to provide benefits and job guarantees for those sent home.

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Disney also has closed its parks in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Japan and France. There haven't been any reports about cuts in those locations yet.

The furloughed employees' last day will be Sunday. Eric Clinton, the president of the Florida local Service Trades Council, a union that represents Disney workers, said in a Facebook message, "This is a decision that the union doesn't like. However, it's within the company's right to lay off and furlough employees in this situation."

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The company has not announced a date when it expects its theme parks to reopen. But one Wall Street analyst recently suggested the padlocks could come off as soon as May for some international parks, with domestic parks opening in June. In fact, according to Disneyland's own website, reservations are being accepted after June 1.

Other analysts say the parks might not reopen until next year.

Disney, which had been one of the best-performing entertainment companies over the past decade, has been especially hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Its stock price has fallen about 30% so far this year, a performance more than twice as bad as the overall market.

Theme parks account for nearly half of Disney's profits, and the company's cruise business also has no current income.

With movie theaters around the globe shuttered, Disney has been forced to reschedule several high-profile 2020 titles, including a live-action remake of "Mulan" and the Marvel film "Black Widow."

ESPN, historically one of Disney's most profitable divisions, has zero sports and sports highlights to broadcast. And Disney's live theater unit, the maker of hit musicals like "The Lion King," must wait until Broadway is no longer closed.

But with its usual customers sheltering in place, Disney has one spot of good news. Some 50 million paying customers have signed up for Disney+, its new streaming service, and viewership of Disney-owned Hulu, like Netflix, is surging.