The Walt Disney Company has announced the layoffs of 28,000 Cast Members at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. This follows the temporary furlough of employees back in April, many of whom did not return to work when the Florida parks & resorts reopened over the summer.
This is the latest in a long line of layoffs throughout the hospitality and tourism industries that has spiked the unemployment rate to over 11% in Florida’s Orange and Osceola Counties. Two weeks ago, the Swan and Dolphin Resorts announced plans to lay off 1,136 workers in November 2020 due to “historically low hotel occupancy and mounting event cancellations [that] will extend into 2021.”
Prior to that, SeaWorld Orlando permanently laid off 1,900 workers who had been on temporary furloughs at its theme parks, and Universal Orlando extended unpaid furloughs for 5,400 people. Other layoffs have occurred in waves at the theme parks and resorts across Central Florida. However, today is the first major layoff by Walt Disney World or Disneyland since the Great Recession…
In a press release, Josh D’Amaro, Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products attributed the layoffs to the prolonged uncertainty and impact of the pandemic, exacerbated in California by the State’s unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen.
D’Amaro further said that Disney has been forced to make a number of necessary adjustments to its 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.”
Here’s D’Amaro’s full statement:
And below is the email sent out to Cast Members, which was also included in the press release:
I write this note to you today to share some difficult decisions that we have had to make regarding our Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products organization.
Let me start with my belief that the heart and soul of our business is and always will be people. Just like all of you, I love what I do. I also love being surrounded by people who think about their roles as more than jobs, but as opportunities to be a part of something special, something different, and something truly magical.
Earlier this year, in response to the pandemic, we were forced to close our businesses around the world. Few of us could have imagined how significantly the pandemic would impact us — both at work and in our daily lives. We initially hoped that this situation would be short-lived, and that we would recover quickly and return to normal. Seven months later, we find that has not been the case. And, as a result, today we are now forced to reduce the size of our team across executive, salaried, and hourly roles.
As you can imagine, a decision of this magnitude is not easy. For the last several months, our management team has worked tirelessly to avoid having to separate anyone from the company. 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.
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.
Thank you for your dedication, patience and understanding during these difficult times. I know that these changes will be challenging. It will take time for all of us to process this information and its impact. We will be scheduling appointments with our affected salaried and non-union hourly employees over the next few days. Additionally, today we will begin the process of discussing next steps with unions. We encourage you to visit The Hub or the WDI Homepage for any support you may need.
For those who will be affected by this decision, I want to thank you for all that you have done for our company and our guests. While we don’t know when the pandemic will be behind us, we are confident in our resilience, and hope to welcome back Cast Members and employees when we can.
As for commentary, we will start by saying that our hearts go out to the Cast Members, their families and friends who are both directly and indirectly impacted by these layoffs. I cannot fathom how stressful and filled with uncertainty the last several months have been, and to have this happen on top of everything else must just be devastating. Words only mean so much, but we are truly heartbroken by this news.
Along those lines, to all of the Walt Disney World and Disneyland fans reading this, please have empathy and courtesy when interacting with Cast Members in the coming days, weeks, and months. This should always go without saying, but is especially true now. Lingering uncertainty remains, and no Cast Member is truly “unaffected” by this. Everyone will be losing friends and colleagues, and will likely be asked to shoulder more of the weight. When in doubt, always err on the side of kindness.
Beyond that, I wish I could say this is a surprise. Given the low occupancy numbers and slow-going of the reopening at Walt Disney World coupled with Disneyland remaining closed, this was an inevitability. With that said, I do think it’s petty and in poor taste for Disney to take another thinly-veiled shot at California in the opening lines of what should be a heartfelt statement expressing the difficulty of the decision. It’s undoubtedly true that California’s onerous new tier system has exacerbated this; just because something is true doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to say in the moment.
Moreover, Disney will have to file notices of the layoffs with both California and Florida. When those inevitably reveal that ~20,000 of the laid of Cast Members are in Florida, that’s going to make that scapegoating look disingenuous. I also would not (and do not) blame Florida for the layoffs, nor do I blame any government or corporation for the difficult decisions being made right now.
This is especially true in the hospitality and tourism sectors, which are being absolutely devastated. That’s true all around the country, and all around the globe. Irrespective of the response by leaders, nowhere has emerged unscathed. It’s easy to Monday morning quarterback this, but I do not envy anyone tasked with making any of these moves. It’s a veritable buffet of least-bad choices. Even equipped with better knowledge, there’s no way of knowing today what unintended consequences will result from any decision.
Ultimately, this is really sad news for all involved. I know there’s the inclination to critique decisions and what could’ve or should’ve been done differently by Disney, but I’m not in the mood for that when it comes to such a consequential topic. These are the jobs of 28,000 people. The real world impact of this is colossal on those individuals and their families, and again, I cannot fathom how devastating this must be.
Knowing how this is going to impact all of these people–and ripple throughout Anaheim and Orlando–makes me sick to my stomach. I’m just tired of all this and am desperately hoping for some good news that results in a bounce back so more jobs aren’t lost. For ways you can assist, please read our Help Give Back to Disney Cast Members & Community.
Have any thoughts or comments on the news of layoffs at Walt Disney World and Disneyland? Do you agree or disagree with any of our assessment? Please keep the comments civil and exercise empathy. This is not the place for arguing about economics, politics, and so forth—all such comments will be deleted, irrespective of perspective. You are not going to change anyone’s mind via the comments section on this blog.