Disney Lays Off 28,000, Mostly at Its 2 U.S. Theme Parks

Noble Horvath

So far, Disney’s zealous theme park safety procedures appear to be working. University epidemiologists and public health officials have said that — as far as they can tell — there have been no outbreaks among Disney workers or guests. Disney has declined to comment except to note that new infections […]

So far, Disney’s zealous theme park safety procedures appear to be working. University epidemiologists and public health officials have said that — as far as they can tell — there have been no outbreaks among Disney workers or guests. Disney has declined to comment except to note that new infections in Florida have dropped sharply since Disney World reopened.

Revenue at Disney’s worldwide theme park division, which includes a still-closed cruise line and the Disney Store chain, totaled $1 billion in the most recent quarter, an 85 percent decline from the same period a year earlier. Operating profit plunged by $3.7 billion, resulting in a quarterly loss of $2 billion. Mr. D’Amaro said on Tuesday that the restructuring would create a more “effective and efficient operation when we return to normal.”

The rest of Disney has been bouncing back. Live sports returned to ESPN in August. Movie and television production has restarted, although Disney continues to postpone film releases. Disney+ has been growing rapidly enough to keep Disney’s stock price relatively high at $125, down 3 percent from a year ago.

Central Florida’s once-booming leisure and hospitality industry has been decimated by the pandemic. Unemployment in Orange County — home to Disney World, the Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld and dozens of mom-and-pop tourist attractions — stood at 11.6 percent in August, up from 3.1 percent in August 2019, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. Osceola County, which abuts Disney World to the south, had 15.1 percent unemployment in August, up from 3.5 percent.

Statewide, the August unemployment rate in Florida was 7.4 percent.

Universal Orlando laid off a steady stream of employees over the summer and recently notified state officials that about 5,400 workers had been placed on extended furlough. SeaWorld laid off 1,900 employees at its Orlando properties this month. A few days before its layoffs, SeaWorld surprised workers by altering its severance policy, moving to a discretionary system from a fixed formula based on tenure.

Workers at Universal and SeaWorld are not unionized.

“The layoffs and furloughs have been devastating,” said Mike McElmury, trustee of Teamsters Local 385, which represents about 5,000 Disney World bus drivers, laundry workers and entertainers, including those who greet visitors in costume as Disney characters. At least 2,000 were still on furlough as of Monday. “We’re at the point where people are having a hard time figuring out where they will get their next meal,” Mr. McElmury said.

Over the summer, an Orlando union organized a weekly food bank for furloughed theme park workers. Jeremy Haicken, president of Unite Here Local 737, which represents roughly 18,000 Disney World food service workers and hotel housekeepers, said that its food bank was initially stocked to serve about 200 families. About 800 were provided with free groceries on Saturday, with the line stretching two miles, Mr. Haicken said.

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