Walt Disney Co. announces 28,000 U.S. layoffs

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Guests wear masks, as required, to attend the official re-opening day of the Magic Kingdom at Orlando’s Walt Disney World on July 11.

JOE BURBANK/ORLANDO SENTINEL/TNS

BY GABRIELLE RUSSON
ORLANDO SENTINEL/TNS

ORLANDO – Stricken by the coronavirus pandemic, Walt Disney Co. revealed Tuesday it is laying off 28,000 U.S. employees, including some at Walt Disney World.

Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, said the layoffs are happening as the virus has hurt business, and because California has not lifted 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,” D’Amaro said in a news release.

Many part-timers

Disney did not provide a breakdown about how many employees are losing their jobs at Disney World and Disneyland. No notice of mass layoffs has been filed with the state of Florida, according to online records.

Of the 28,000 employees, about 67% are part-time employees, D’Amaro said, adding the cuts will affect executive, salaried, and hourly jobs.

At one point, the Disney empire of theme parks was closed around the world from the coronavirus pandemic, costing the company $2 billion last financial quarter. But as a company, Disney has generated $50 billion in profit over the past five years.

Disney World reopened in mid-July after a shutdown dating back to mid-March. Last week, D’Amaro held a virtual press conference with the news media to put pressure on the California government to lift the restrictions, saying tens of thousands were dependent on the theme parks for jobs.

‘Only feasible option’

In a letter to employees, D’Amaro called the layoffs “the only feasible option.”

“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,’’ he said.

“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.”

The Actors’ Equity Association, one of several unions that represents Disney workers, said staff members are in discussions with Disney to learn the impact of Tuesday’s layoff announcement.

Across Orlando’s theme parks, Sea World permanently laid off 1,900 furloughed workers at its three Orlando properties this month. Universal also disclosed it is furloughing nearly 5,400 employees indefinitely.

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