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Disneyland workers push back against plan to reopen next month

Disney World and SeaWorld plan to reopen
Disney World and SeaWorld plan to reopen 02:12

Disneyland hopes to reopen next month with new safety measures, including face masks for guests and staff, temperature checks, and frequent cleaning. But some workers at the theme park, and even loyal customers, worry that reopening is premature.

Union leaders representing about 17,000 Disneyland employees sent a letter this week to Gov. Gavin Newsom arguing that the state's rising number of coronavirus cases makes it unsafe to reopen the property. A Change.org petition that has gathered more than 40,000 signatures is also urging The Walt Disney Co., which owns the theme park, to delay the reopening, calling the move "irresponsible and greedy."

"As an annual passholder, I was disappointed to hear they'd be reopening so soon because I am not entirely comfortable going back yet due to the virus," one petition signer wrote. 

California has reported 2,000 new daily cases of the virus every for the past two weeks, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the state to more than 161,000. In Florida, home of Disney World, health experts said the Sunshine State could be the nation's new COVID-19 epicenter after 3,208 new cases were reported on Thursday in a period of 24 hours. Disney plans to reopen Disney World in Orlando on July 15.

Elena Morales of Anaheim, California, who also signed the Change.org petition and said she works at Disneyland, noted, "The last thing I wanna do is go back while this pandemic is getting worse."

Disney defended its plan to reopen the theme park, pointing to the list of health protocols it would implement. The company said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch that the "well-being of our cast members and guests are at the forefront of our planning." 

"We look forward to continued dialogue with our unions on the extensive health and safety protocols, following guidance from public health experts, which we plan to implement as we move toward our proposed, phased reopening," Disney said.

RESORT UPDATE Attention Members, We have a number of important updates to share as we continue our negotiations with...

Posted by Workers United Local 50 on Thursday, June 18, 2020

Disneyland has been closed since March 15. It is one of many Disney-owned properties forced to temporarily close this spring during the pandemic. The closures of Disneyland and Disney World are costing the company an estimated $1 billion per month, Disney Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy told Wall Street analysts in a May conference call.

The company announced the Disneyland reopening plans earlier this month, noting the July 17 date is pending state approval. Disney also said it would limit the number of visitors to the park if allowed to reopen. 

"Certain experiences that draw large group gatherings – such as parades and nighttime spectaculars – will return at a later date," Disneyland spokesman Michael Ramirez said in a post on the company's blog. "While character meet and greets will be temporarily unavailable, characters will be in the parks in new ways to entertain and delight guests."

In the letter to Newsom, Disneyland employees said they're pleased the theme park is taking temperature checks. But workers are "not yet satisfied that it is safe to reopen" because Disney hasn't addressed other safety proposals from union members, the letter states. Newsom hasn't publicly responded to the unions' letter.

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