Workers United Local 50 Union addressed how it is seeking further pandemic protections for current and soon-to-be-former employees during ongoing negotiations with Disneyland during a Facebook Live event yesterday.
Union President Chris Duarte and Vice President Angel Esparza updated Disneyland workers, also known as Cast Members, on their efforts to represent union employees.
As Disneyland’s reopening date remains unknown, Duarte said that people should anticipate the effects of the pandemic on the theme park to last longer than a year. Even as Disneyland reopens, it will be operating in a limited capacity and there is no final word on which park restaurants will be open.
“This contract originated in the ’50s, there hasn’t been any layoff discussions for at least 20 years,” said Duarte. “We never expected this to happen.”
As of now, Disneyland workers who have been laid off will have their benefits extended until the end of the year. However, the union has been negotiating to extend those benefits even further. There were also talks of creating a severance package for hourly employees. Disney has yet to agree with either idea.
The contract also states that laid-off cast members can come back within 12 months and retain their seniority. Due to the logistics of the pandemic and Disneyland’s limited operating capacity, the union is seeking to give laid-off employees an extra year to come back before Disney can begin hiring new people.
However, there was still uncertainty among viewers regarding the status of recalled employees and how they would come back. Those who are returning to the park have yet to know whether or not they will return to their original location.
Some Cast Members expressed in the comments that, due to the pandemic, they now had to stay home and take care of their children. Some were immunocompromised or had sick family members at home.
Duarte said that cast members could decline to return to work and be placed on furlough. They would then be replaced by the next most senior cast member.
Whether or not those employees would remain on unemployment benefits is up to the Unemployment Development Department.
In order to protect against this uncertainty, the union is working on protecting full-time status for employees whose hours could be cut. Full-time workers represent the majority of those who will be recalled once Disneyland opens.
On the other hand, 82.6% of those being laid-off will be part-time cast members.
“FIGHT FOR PART TIME. WE MATTER TOO!” exclaimed viewer Jose Cardenas in the comments.
The union reiterated multiple times throughout the live stream that its number one priority remains to have layoffs done based on seniority, as noted in the contract. Many in the chat expressed questions about the specifics of this plan, such as regarding part-time workers and whether or not seniority was applied among the various categories within food and beverage.
“We want to go based off of seniority, period,” said Duarte. “There’s a rumor going around claiming that it’s going to be done based on classification, but that simply is not true.”
The only exception mentioned was with trainers and leads who would be brought back out of necessity, but whose seniority was lower than some other workers. Duarte specified that they would be strictly working as trainers and leads only, even if they took on other duties in the past.
Concerning the number of people being laid off, Disney has yet to budge.
Duarte replied to commenters suggesting a strike that such efforts would not be possible for contracted employees.
With regards to negotiation with other unions, Duarte said they would consider it if there was a mutual goal they wanted to work towards. However, he also noted that different unions serve different categories of employees with different needs.
The union is continuing its bi-weekly food bank to serve food-insecure cast members.
The union will continue to meet with Disneyland multiple times a week. Negotiations will be finalized the week before November 1.