Disney Parks and the Lack of Accountability

“The State of California has now indicated that it will not issue theme park reopening guidelines until sometime after July 4th.”

This quote from the Disneyland Resort Reopening Update posted by the Disney Parks News twitter account was made to pass blame directly onto the Californian government. They’re specifically stating that if it weren’t for the guidelines not being available, they still would have been opening on July 17th. The company would have had no qualms about reopening the theme park despite COVID-19 numbers still rising in southern California.

“Given the time required for us to bring thousands of cast members back to work and restart our business, we have no choice but to delay the reopening of our theme parks and resort hotels until we receive approval from government officials.”

The “we have no choice” makes it pretty clear that the parks management would still have opened, despite the outspoken concern from its cast members and the community. While the opened their statement by saying they’ve come up with “enhanced health and safety protocols,” there is always the worry about those who do not wish to follow the protocols. There have been plenty of individuals doing their best to protest having to wear masks. Since the masks are a large part of preventing the spread of COVID-19, their attitude is a big danger to the success of any such safety protocols.

While these protocols may have been successful at the Shanghai and Hong Kong parks, there are a few big differences as to why they would fail in the United States. The first is that the spread of COVID-19 in Asia had already gone down to a much smaller number. In Orange County, California, cases are still spiking to the point where the governor is possibly about to once again order stricter quarantine measures. There’s a strong possibility that decision will be protested as well, just as some people protested wearing masks and the beaches being closed.

It is because of the defiant behavior by these Americans that brings me to the next reason the safety protocols won’t be as effective. Most Asian cultures have been wearing masks for their own health since before COVID-19. They haven’t been protesting wearing them. They’re aware of the benefits of wearing them. They also have more respect in regards to the safety protocols than most Americans will.

The rest of the statement goes over them still opening the Downtown Disney District on July 9th, plus their negotiations with various unions that represent most cast members. Their need to still negotiate with unions, despite having some signed already, shows that there is pushback and concern from some unions and their representatives.

Some of the union communications outlining the return to work for cast members have been posted online, and there’s still concern over these regulations. One part I read that stuck out to me is that they’re expecting cast to do at-home checks prior to leaving for work and to notify their leader ASAP if they’re unable to report. A positive is that if they do have to call saying they cannot report, they will not be given an attendance violation if this occurs between July 5th and September 1st. However, the likelihood of this virus spread being contained by then is very low, which puts cast members at risk of attendance violations. With a lack of sick days or sick pay, this can be detrimental to these cast members and their livelihoods.

Another concern along with these at-home tests, as well as the second temperature check once clocking in, is either cast members not reporting any symptoms, or being asymptomatic. The fever isn’t always present in people with COVID-19, so a temperature check wouldn’t be helpful. If cast members show no symptoms, there’s still the chance of transmitting the virus to others, since the World Health Organization still doesn’t have all the information on how the virus spreads.

When I worked at the resort, there were a number of times that cast members would still report to work despite being sick. Most state they cannot afford to miss work due to financial difficulties, or having too many attendance issues already. Since most cast members barely make enough to cover the high rent of living in southern California, plus bills, food, medical, and possibly student expenses, it puts more stress on their ability to work. Even though most positions pay little above minimum wage, it is still a ways away from being a livable wage. Since the $600 unemployment bonus has ended, some cast members will see no other option than to go back to work in order to pay bills and rent. Since most of these cast members also love their job, they won’t want to quit despite being afraid of going back at this unsafe time. They’ll have to go back despite compromised immune systems, knowing guests won’t follow protocols, knowing some fellow cast members won’t follow protocols, and knowing there’s a high likelihood of contracting COVID-19 while working.

While other companies are extending work-from-home orders or furloughs, Disney is still intent on reopening their theme parks amidst a number of worrying statistics. Instead of postponing the reopening out of concern for their cast members and guests, they’re blaming the State of California for delaying their opening. Their statement basically reads like “I wanted to, but my parents won’t let me.” Well, I’m thankful for the State of California for causing the postponement of the parks reopening.

I can only hope that Disney Resort Leadership will consider the safety of the thousands of people they employ, plus the safety of their guests and the community. I also hope they can take responsibility for their decisions if they still decide to open and are the reason for another spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Plugged in and fired up.

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Alyssa King

Alyssa King

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