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Disney Lays Off 28,000 Parks Employees, Blames California For Not Allowing Disneyland's Reopening

Sleeping Beauty's Castle at Disneyland, California. (Chava Sanchez/ LAist)
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A week ago, the head of Disney’s theme parks implored California state leaders to let Disneyland reopen. With no word yet, Disney announced devastating layoffs for parks employees Tuesday.

Disney’s flagship Southern California theme park has been padlocked since March, with most of the Anaheim staff furloughed with no pay, but some benefits.

Now Disney is laying off 28,000 domestic theme park employees — about a quarter of its U.S. workforce. And they're blaming California for not lifting COVID-19 safety restrictions in a statement from theme park head Josh D’Amaro.

The effects of COVID-19, including limited capacity due to physical distancing needs, have been "exacerbated in California by the State’s unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen," the statement reads.

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Disney has reopened parks around the world, including Disney World in Orlando, and has petitioned California to match Florida’s looser guidelines.

The layoffs affect executive, salaried, and part-time staff, according to the release. Two-thirds of those laid off are part-time employees.

In a letter to employees company officials wrote:

"For the last several months, our management team has worked tirelessly to avoid having to separate anyone from the company. We’ve cut expenses, suspended capital projects, furloughed our cast members while still paying benefits, and modified our operations to run as efficiently as possible, however, we simply cannot responsibly stay fully staffed while operating at such limited capacity."

Union officials raised concerns over the summer about how the local parks could reopen safely. Disney has said they had plans to address safety concerns, detailing those measures in a news conference last week.

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California officials have said they want to get amusement parks open again, but have not laid out a timetable for doing so.

Keep in mind these parks are big business and support many jobs and businesses that orbit them. Orange County mayors, who have also been calling on Gov. Newsom to allow Disneyland to reopen, have reported major losses to the local economy. In Anaheim, for example, officials report a budget shortfall of $100 million.

Disney has also taken steep hits to its bottom line. Once reliably and wildly profitable, the pandemic has led to billions of dollars of losses for Disney's theme parks and cruise ships.

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