Back in early July, The Walt Disney Co. faced intense criticism over reopening Disney World in Orlando, Florida, during a pandemic. The company released eerie ads unveiling new life in the park, which didn’t inspire confidence, but videos have shown in the past social distancing is tough to enforce at the massive park. Making matters worse, Disney attempted to cover up COVID-19 cases at the park.
The Daily Beast’s sources tell them Disney is keeping the number of COVID-19 cases secret and away from the public and, worse, employees. It’s been taking days for Disney to inform unions of confirmed cases. Disney’s isn’t telling co-works about fellow employees having COVID-19. Per usual, Disney did not comment on the matter. The Daily Beast reached out to the company’s representatives a total of eight times and received no response. Usually, Disney avoids commenting on matters that are unflattering or damaging to their family-friendly image.
The Union’s Response
According to UFCW Local 324, which is a union that represents workers and cast members at Disneyland, Disney isn’t tell them need-to-know information about the number of cases at their parks:
“We want to know if any cast members have tested positive. But Disney has taken the position that they’re only going to tell us if our cast members do. What is supposed to happen is contact tracing—find out who was exposed and quarantine them as well. I can’t confirm that they’ve done that.”
Disney is notoriously unfair to its park employees, who often face harassment from park attendees and receive very little pay. The park’s “cast members” can’t speak to the press; it’s in their contracts. According to the wife of one cast member, it’s fellow park employees, not their bosses, keeping others informed of COVID-19 cases:
“Basically all of our COVID information has come from word of mouth. Co-workers texting each other, co-workers talking to each other, and things that my [spouse] has seen on the job. None of this is from any of the managers. Disney management is not really officially acknowledging that any of this is happening.”
The Fear Among Employees
The Daily Beast paints a picture of fear among park employees. Only five days after receiving a positive COVID-19 test, an employee was asked to return to work. The employee hadn’t quarantined for the recommended 14 days. Still, the employee returned to work as instructed and only one day later, two members from his 12-party team were absent from the job. Text messages reveal Disney’s management is asking employees with positive COVID-19 tests to return to work.
Disney’s Response to Park Visitors
When Downtown Disney in Anaheim, California, reopened, videos showed social distancing gone unenforced. Downtown Disney remained open. The parks’ employees have to maintain social distancing, but management told them not to anger attendees not following rules, too:
“In addition to [Disney’s] unscrupulous suppression of their Covid-19 case numbers, they have ‘highly encouraged/recommended’ employees to not anger ANY customer in Downtown Disney. Regardless of the new safety rules, so long as the customer is wearing a mask, [cast members] are discouraged from ‘ruffling feathers,’ meaning social distancing enforcement has become fairly scattershot at best.”
There have been outbreaks of COVID-19 at Downtown Disney. One of The Daily Beast’s sources said they’ve attempted multiple times to reach out to Governor Gavin Newsom about the matter, but has received no response on the urgent matter.