Disneyland workers tell California governor: The theme park can reopen safely

This summer, unions representing Disneyland employees implored California Gov. Gavin Newsom not to allow Disneyland to reopen in mid-July, noting the rising number of cases in the state at that time as well as the need for routine testing.

The theme park did not reopen July 17 as planned and instead delayed its reopening indefinitely. Essentially, it’s been stuck in limbo for four months. Meanwhile, thousands of workers have lost their jobs, and the local economy has continued to suffer. The city of Anaheim expects a fiscal-year deficit of at least $75 million, instead of the surplus that had been expected before the pandemic struck.

Disney officials say that while the company has enacted numerous safety precautions and demonstrated it can operate its theme parks safely without spreading the coronavirus, California state officials have not been forthcoming or clear about what needs to happen in order for Disneyland and other theme parks to reopen.

On Saturday, the Coalition of Resort Labor Unions published a letter to Newsom saying that Disney had listened to its employees and held up part of the bargain. And now it’s his turn to act. Specifically, the unions want the governor and his aides to involve the workers in their decision-making process.

“Disney has taken safety measures we advocated, and engaged with their workers’ representatives,” read the letter, which was signed by the leaders of several local union chapters, including the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) and Independent Employee Service Association (IESA). “The company has provided detail on serious measures to protect workers via social distancing, providing PPE, addressing ventilation, and more.”

The unions said they believe Disneyland can reopen safely once there are fewer than four new cases per 100,000 residents and the rate of positive tests falls below 5% in Orange County, California, where the park is located. That improvement would move the county into Tier 3 or “moderate” risk territory.  

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