With the phased reopening of the theme parks of Walt Disney World already in progress (at least for cast members and annual passholders), Disney has rescinded a previous decision to recall performers from the Actor’s Equity union, according to Deadline.

What’s Happening:

  • The Actor’s Equity union, which represents approximately 750 performers at Walt Disney World say that the company has rescinded a decision to recall performers after the union had demanded COVID-19 testing.
  • In a grievance filed, the association claims that Disney has “Locked Out” the union members as a form of retaliation after demanding COVID-19 testing as a condition for returning to work, even though according to Disney, other unions had accepted the new park safety protocols and policies.
  • According to Actor’s Equity, the company had announced on June 23rd that they would call performers back in late June or Early July for rehearsals. Two days later on June 25th, the association made a public statement calling for the COVID-19 testing as part of the negotiations as social distancing would not be practical in a theater environment. On June 26th, Disney rescinded their callback notice.
  • At this time, the entertainers we see as part of the cavalcades and greeting guests are not those in the Actor’s Equity Union. Performers in the union are typically in the stage productions, mic'd or harnessed in some way, like those in the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Beauty and the Beast: Live on Stage, and Finding Nemo: The Musical.
  • Previously, Actor’s Equity retained Dr. David Michaels, the former head of OSHA under President Obama, to advise on health and safety protocols. Among his suggested protocols for reopening theater venues is coronavirus testing.
  • As Walt Disney World reopens we see enhanced safety precautions that include enhanced cleanings, physical distancing, reduced contact, and mandatory face coverings as well as temperature checks for all guests and cast members.
  • At this time, it is unclear when Equity negotiations will resume, or when their performers will return to the parks.

What They’re Saying:

  • Mary McColl, executive director of Actors’ Equity Association: “Since our public request that Disney test performers in the park, there have been more than 114,000 new coronavirus cases in Florida. Rather than agree to testing of performers, Disney has decided to retaliate against workers fighting for a safe workplace during this pandemic.”
  • Disney Spokesperson: “Seven unions signed agreements to have their employees return to work, the Actors’ Equity rejected our safety protocols and have not made themselves available to continue negotiations, which is unfortunate. We are exercising our right to open without Equity performers.”