Disney has recently announced that it is laying off 28,000 employees associated with its Parks, Experiences and Products, which is roughly a fourth of the company’s employees in that area. It’s an example of how the COVID shutdowns continues to affect the most vulnerable employees.

The country is slowly beginning to reopen after COVID related shutdowns caused massive disruption in states across the country, but, in some cases, not soon enough.

California, in particular, continues to restrict the opening of theme parks. Though Gov. Gavin Newsom, D, said earlier this month that “a lot of progress” is being made towards reopening Disneyland in Anaheim, the park even has a plan in place to adapt and enforce COVID regulations, but the hesitancy of California to act has cost thousands of jobs.

“As heartbreaking as it is to take this action, this is the only feasible option we have 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,” Josh D’Amaro, the chairman of Disney Parks, said.

Though the Florida resort was allowed to reopen, its limited capacity and the unwillingness of Gov. Newsom and California to “lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen” and a lower than expected attendance at Disney World has contributed to the mass layoff decision.

Seemingly, Disney held on for as long as it could, keeping many people on the payroll and providing health benefits, despite the closing of its parks, but the company could not continue without an end in sight.

Florida and other states have already introduced safety measures that have allowed guests to return, enjoy the rides and contribute to the local economy. California refuses to do the same.

It’s understandable that states have to manage and contain COVID-19 outbreaks, but are some of the restrictions really doing more harm than good?

In 2018, The New York Times exposed that many Disneyland employees struggle to make ends meet in Orange County. Some are even forced to live in their cars and shower at the park.

“According to a survey of thousands of low-wage employees at the park, nearly three-quarters of workers who responded said they do not earn enough money to pay for their basic monthly expenses, and one in 10 said they had been homeless in the past two years,” the article reported.

“Every time we get to the end of the month, I have to choose what bills to pay,” employee Grace Torres said. “We want kids, but there’s no way we’re going to do that when we can barely afford to feed ourselves.”

The article received a strong reaction from Disney and members of Walt Disney’s family, but there is no doubt that many of these same employees are in much more dire straits due to the layoffs induced by COVID.

This mass layoff has hit many of these low-income employees hard, and there is still no answer on when the park will reopen. Disney has a stellar reputation for safety, and there have been no reported outbreaks in Disney’s Florida location.

If California wanted to keep people safe, and strengthen its people and economy, then perhaps opening the park would have been better.

Photo from chrisdorney / Shutterstock.com


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