Disney Parks to Lay Off 28,000 U.S. Employees Due to Pandemic Impact on Disneyland, Walt Disney World

Sleeping Beauty Castle, Disneyland Park, Disneyland
Marc Rasmus/imageBROKER/Shutters

Disney Parks is laying off 28,000 U.S. employees, two-thirds of whom are part-time, due to the pandemic’s impact on Disneyland and Walt Disney World, according to Disney Parks chairman Josh D’Amaro.

Calling the decision “heartbreaking” in a letter to employees, he said that this was “the only feasible option we have” due to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the parks to limit capacity and the ongoing closure of Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. He said, in a separate statement, that the state of California’s “unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen” exacerbated the situation.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom indicated in a Sept. 15 news conference that an announcement on theme parks and amusement parks would be coming “very, very shortly.”

Disneyland has remain shuttered since mid-March. Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., which also closed in March, reopened in mid-July with increased health and safety measures as well as reduced visitor capacity.

In the letter to workers, D’Amaro said that the company would meet with affected salaried and non-union hourly employees over the next few days and will begin discussing next steps with the unions that represent those theme park workers. Though 67% of the cuts will impact part-time workers, affect Disney staff across executive, salaried and hourly positions.

The decision comes as the pandemic’s impact continues to eat into Walt Disney Company’s largest business by revenue. Disney’s parks, experiences and consumer products division brings in more revenue than any other segment — $26.23 billion in fiscal 2019 — accounting for over 37% of Disney’s $69.57 billion in revenue last year. By operating income, parks and consumer products represented over 45% of Disney’s $14.87 billion in 2019 operating income.

Actors’ Equity Association, which represents live stage performers at Disney theme parks, reacted to the news by calling on the Senate to take action.

“A bill that could provide these laid-off employees with unemployment insurance and a pathway to affordable health care has been sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk for months,” said Mary McColl, executive director of Actors’ Equity Association. “In Florida, laid off Disney workers can only receive $275 in unemployment benefits, which is unconscionable. The Senate must help these workers.”

The full statement to press from D’Amaro can be read below:

“In light of the prolonged impact of COVID-19 on our business, including limited capacity due to physical distancing requirements and the continued uncertainty regarding the duration of the pandemic – exacerbated in California by the State’s unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen – we have made the very difficult decision to begin the process of reducing our workforce at our Parks, Experiences and Products segment at all levels, having kept non-working Cast Members on furlough since April, while paying healthcare benefits. Approximately 28,000 domestic employees will be affected, of which about 67% are part-time. We are talking with impacted employees as well as to the unions on next steps for union-represented Cast Members.

Over the past several months, we’ve been forced to make a number of necessary adjustments to our business, and as difficult as this decision is today, we believe that the steps we are taking will enable us to emerge a more effective and efficient operation when we return to normal. Our Cast Members have always been key to our success, playing a valued and important role in delivering a world-class experience, and we look forward to providing opportunities where we can for them to return.”