Disney lays off thousands of staff

written BY: GRIFFIN BRAMMER, staff writer
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com
The laying off of thousands of Disney employees leaves current employees of the company and hopeful new ones, scared for their future as they face many uncertainties and a lack of throrough employee communication.

As the coronavirus hinders business at Disney’s theme parks and resorts, the company has begun the process to lay off 28,000 of its American employees.

All affected employees were park workers and cast members, with around two thirds of the laid off employees being part time workers. Disney has cited the main cause of these layouts as a need to control the number of occupants in a park at a given time to best follow social distancing guidelines.

While Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida (along with many of their other parks in Asia and Europe) has  reopened after  closing earlier this year, the company has  lost profits from their parks globally, with a reported 91% decrease in profits  from the first three months of this year.  As of now, the only global park not to be officially reopened is Disneyland in Anaheim, California, with only a small section of the park open to visitors in a “phased reopening,” available after a stream of COVID-19 guidelines and health checks.

This  brings up a secondary reason for the layoffs.  Disney cites the California government’s “unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen.”

During an interview regarding the layoffs, Josh D’Amaro, chairman of  Disney’s parks, stated, “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.”

He  remains hopeful that the fired employees might soon one day receive their jobs back, in a post-COVID-19 world.  “We look forward to providing opportunities where we can for them to return,” D’Amaro added.

However, some were quick to share their disappointment in the company’s decision. The Service Trades Council Union (STCU), a union group whose six different unions across the Disney parks represent over 43,000 cast members, tweeted, “We were disappointed to learn that the COVID-19 crisis has led Disney to make the decision to layoff Cast Members.”

The STCU has focused on helping any of its members affected by the layoffs to get all the necessary information needed.  The organization has scheduled to meet with Disney to lead negotiations on the layoffs.  On top of that, they have mentioned procuring information on how long staff members’ health insurance, recall rights and other job benefits will last after the layoffs.

It has since been reported that 6,700 of these layoffs will affect non-union members.  In addition, the layoffs will reportedly begin in early December.

“As you can imagine, a decision of this magnitude is not easy. 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,” D’Amaro wrote in an employee memo. 

The public has found  fault with Disney’s decision. First year business analytics and marketing major Avery Strychasz has taken an interest in the Disney College Program, a program that offers college students the opportunity to work for Disney as one of these cast members that are facing unemployment.  “As someone who is interested in the business world, it is concerning from an employee standpoint, but not surprising,” Strychasz stated.  “They’re a huge corporation, and it’s a numbers game for them. They need to stay in the green, and unfortunately that comes at the expense of people’s livelihood,” she continued.

However, Strychasz fears that this decision will not only affect the employees at Disney’s theme parks, but may soon affect employees in corporations all across America.  “If they had to lay off that number of people for their company, it’s concerning what the other companies will do, because a lot of companies look to them.”

Ultimately, however, the decision still leaves some hope in her, especially when it comes to the Disney College Program.  “It’s definitely a concern,” Strychasz said between nervous laughter, “but I think they are trying to do what’s for the best interest of the majority of their employees and their company.”  While the news has perhaps swayed the opinions of the company for others and the program as a whole also faces uncertainty in a world occupied by a pandemic, Strychasz remains motivated to become a member of the company.  “[This issue] definitely doesn’t deter me from joining the program,” she clarified.  “If anything,” she added, “it motivates me to be the one person that they can’t lay off– to be the best person in my field that I can possibly be.”

While this decision is sure to affect many Disney employees, resources for cast members at risk or in need have already started to pop up.  A Disney employee-led organization known as Cast Member Pantry plans to continue donating necessary food and groceries to their fellow employees that have been most impacted by the layoffs and COVID-19.  

With Disney’s cast members having eachothers backs during a time of uncertainty and a new wave of motivation in one student to be the best employee she can be, there might still be a chance of a happy ending for the company after all.