Disney Lays Off a Quarter of U.S. Theme Park Workers

Revenue at Disney’s worldwide theme park division totaled $1 billion in the most recent quarter, an 85 percent decline from the same period a year earlier. Operating profit plunged by $3.7 billion, resulting in a quarterly loss of $2 billion. Mr. D’Amaro said on Tuesday that the restructuring would create a more “effective and efficient operation when we return to normal.”

The rest of Disney has been bouncing back. Live sports returned to ESPN in August. Movie and television production has restarted, although Disney continues to postpone film releases. Disney+ has been growing rapidly enough to keep Disney’s stock price relatively high at $125, down 3 percent from a year ago.

Central Florida’s once-booming leisure and hospitality industry has been decimated by the pandemic. Unemployment in Orange County — home to Disney World, the Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld and dozens of mom-and-pop tourist attractions — stood at 11.6 percent in August, up from 3.1 percent in August 2019, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. Osceola County, which abuts Disney World to the south, had 15.1 percent unemployment in August, up from 3.5 percent.

Statewide, the August unemployment rate in Florida was 7.4 percent.

Universal Orlando laid off a steady stream of employees over the summer and recently notified state officials that about 5,400 workers had been placed on extended furlough. SeaWorld laid off 1,900 employees at its Orlando properties this month. A few days before its layoffs, SeaWorld surprised workers by altering its severance policy, moving to a discretionary system from a fixed formula based on tenure.

Workers at Universal and SeaWorld are not unionized.

“The layoffs and furloughs have been devastating,” said Mike McElmury, trustee of Teamsters Local 385, which represents about 5,000 Disney World bus drivers, laundry workers and entertainers, including those who greet visitors in costume as Disney characters. At least 2,000 were still on furlough as of Monday. “We’re at the point where people are having a hard time figuring out where they will get their next meal,” Mr. McElmury said.

Over the summer, Orlando unions created a weekly food bank for furloughed theme park workers. Eric Clinton, president of Unite Here Local 362, which represents roughly 8,000 Disney World ride operators, custodians, parking employees and vacation planners, said that the food bank was initially stocked to serve about 200 people. About 800 were provided with free groceries on Saturday, with the line stretching two miles, Mr. Clinton said.

Unite Here affiliates have spent more than $100,000 on the effort, in part by soliciting donations on its website.

Source Article