Orange County

'The only feasible option’: Disney Parks to lay off 28K workers in Florida, California

About 28,000 Disney theme park employees in Florida and California will be laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Walt Disney Parks, Experiences and Products announced Tuesday.

Of those affected, about 67% will be part-time employees, Disney said, and will be scheduling appointments with affected employees over the next few days.

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“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,” a news release states.

To put the number in perspective, that’s more than the number of people who fit into the Amway Center or Orlando City’s soccer stadium.

“I think that number, 28,000, took a lot of people by surprise,” said Robert Niles, founder of Theme Park Insider. “I don’t think anyone’s expecting a layoff of that magnitude at this point.”

Ashley Montesano has not been called back to her job at Walt Disney World, and “sitting around waiting” has turned to worrying, and she’s scared she could be one of the 28,000.

“What do I do next? Do I find another job? Or do I wait around … for a confirmation that I no longer have a job?” Montesano said.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many of the layoffs would be in Florida and how many would be in California.

Sean Snaith with the UCF Institute of Economic Forecasting said he predicts “the larger share of these layoffs would be in California, where the state government has not allowed Disneyland to reopen.”

“That doesn’t mean we’re going to be immune from this here in Central Florida,” he said.

Read: SeaWorld says it will permanently lay off some of its furloughed workers

The union representing Disney workers said they have already started negotiations with Walt Disney World about the news and its impact to union members.

Disney called the decision “the only feasible option.”

“They may be an economic powerhouse with a very large corporation, that doesn’t mean that they’re impervious to things that happen to the economy,” Snaith said.

The impact is expected to be far-reaching.

“We’re not in a situation where what happens in one state or with one, one company, doesn’t impact everyone across the entire the entire country, and, frankly, across the globe,” said Jonathan Bydlak with the R Street Institute.

Read: Universal Orlando lays off another round of workers

After the announcement, Rep. Val Demings (D-10) released the following statement:

″Like so many others over recent months, these layoffs will be devastating for countless people. It’s up to all of us to step up and help in every way we can.

"I urge anyone in the 10th District who needs help with federal services to contact my office. We will be working with government and civic partners to provide as much support as possible to these workers and their families, and to all those who are out of work through no fault of their own.

“I also once again call on Senator McConnell and Senate Republicans to stop stonewalling and allow a vote on our emergency COVID relief legislation. These layoffs show yet again how desperately that assistance is needed by American households and businesses.”

Adam Poulisse,

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.