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Disney Staff Unhappy About Happiest Place on Earth

Christmas lights cover It's A Small World at Disneyland during the Christmas season. (HarshLight/Flickr Creative Commons)
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With coronavirus cases surging to record levels in California and Florida, it's understandable that some fans of Disney's theme parks might steer clear when they reopen next month. But now there's a critical group of park regulars who also say they're not ready to return: the employees.

Unions that represent some 17,000 Disneyland employees have written to Gov. Gavin Newsom expressing their concerns, saying the state should not give Disney approval to reopen its Anaheim parks, hotels and outdoor mall.

"Unfortunately, despite intensive talks with the company, we are not yet convinced that it is safe to reopen the parks on Disney's rapid timetable," the Coalition of Resort Labor Unions said in their letter to Newsom, signed by the heads of 10 unions. "Moreover, Disney has rejected or not yet responded to important safety proposals made by CRLU member unions. Therefore, at this point we do not know if the resort can be operated safely."

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More than 2,000 miles to the east, a petition launched by Disney World workers sent to the mayors of Orlando and Orange County, Fla., echoed the concerns from California employees, almost all of whom have been out of work for months.

"Having our theme parks remain closed until cases are steadily decreasing would keep our guests, our employees and their families safe. Re-opening the theme parks is only putting our guests, employees, and families at higher risk for contracting COVID-19," the petition, which has more than 6,000 signatures, says.

"While theme parks are a great way to relax and enjoy free time, it is a non-essential business; it is not fair to the people who work there to risk their lives, especially if they are at risk or have family members who are at risk," the petition continues.


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Disney, which says it has lost billions of dollars to the pandemic, announced plans over the past weeks to reopen its Florida and California parks and adjacent hotels and shopping districts with limited admissions and enhanced health and safety protocols.

Some Disney hotels reopened this week, while theme parks in Florida are set to open beginning on July 11, with Disneyland planning to come back on July 23.

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The company has posted a notice on its theme park blog from its chief medical officer, Dr. Pamela Hymel, outlining the steps Disney is taking to ensure the safety of park visitors and staff. The blog post says:

"At both parks, this includes reducing capacity; temperature checks for guests prior to entering our theme parks; increasing cleaning and disinfecting, especially in high-traffic areas; adjusting experiences to accommodate physical distancing; requiring face coverings for guests 2 and older; and empowering our guests with options like contactless payments and easy access to handwashing and hand sanitizer locations."

But medical experts say as many as 41% of those infected with coronavirus might have contracted the virus from someone with no symptoms. California reported more than 6,000 new infections on Monday, a record, while Florida's tally was 2,926 on Monday, down from a record 4,049 on Saturday.

One comment on the Disney doctor's post reflected the sentiments of the worried employees.

"Everything we love about Disney is currently off the table. All of the magic is gone," said the comment by someone identified as Chris. "Hopefully things will get back closer to normal and the Disney magic will be restored soon. Until then, we sadly have no choice but to pass."

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