A lobbying group representing Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood and other California theme parks says COVID-19 reopening guidelines issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration will “sentence” laid off and furloughed workers to “poverty.”
The California Attractions and Parks Association said in a statement that the decision to place the state’s large theme parks in the most-restrictive tier of Newsom’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy will keep the major tourist destinations closed indefinitely.
“We continue to urge the Newsom Administration to reconsider the impact of their Tier 4 sentence for California’s major theme parks,” CAPA executive director Erin Guerrero said in a statement. “The current guidance will keep theme parks closed indefinitely and leave thousands of theme park workers in poverty.”
The Sacramento-based CAPA represents Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, Knott’s Berry Farm, Six Flags Magic Mountain, SeaWorld San Diego, Legoland California, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and California’s Great America.
COVID-19 health and safety reopening guidelines issued by the state could leave large California theme parks unable to return until early 2021 or next summer.
Disneyland has announced plans to furlough additional executive, salaried and hourly workers in the wake of COVID-19 reopening guidelines from Newsom’s administration that have left California theme parks “in limbo” for the foreseeable future.
“Since Disneyland resort closed its gates in March, nothing has been more important than fully reopening and getting our cast members back to work,” Disneyland president Ken Potrock wrote in a letter to employees. “That’s why it is with heavy hearts we find ourselves in the untenable situation of having to institute additional furloughs for our executive, salaried and hourly cast.”
Disney furloughed non-essential employees at its U.S. theme parks in April. Disneylaid laid off approximately 10,000 employees in September. The latest round of Disneyland furloughs were announced on Monday, Nov. 9.
The theme park industry has been heavily affected by coronavirus-related closures and reopening capacity restrictions. A survey of International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions members in April found that 59% of their employees had been terminated or furloughed without pay.
“California’s amusement parks never take the decision to furlough or lay off employees lightly,” Guerrero said in a statement. “Park employees’ lives and livelihoods are completely intertwined with the parks where they work. Parks have gone to great lengths to keep their loyal workers employed throughout this pandemic, but the extended shut down makes this impossible.”
California issued separate reopening guidelines for small and large theme parks. Small theme parks with a capacity of fewer than 15,000 visitors can reopen in the orange/moderate tier 3 while large theme parks can return in the yellow/minimal tier 4. CAPA has pleaded with the Newsom administration to allow large California theme parks like Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood to reopen in the less-restrictive orange/moderate tier 3.
“There are real people suffering economic instability, worried about putting food on the tables for their families,” Guerrero said in a statement. “The Newsom administration’s Tier 4 designation means that park employees will continue to suffer even when we reach the moderate Tier 3 and many other parts of the economy are allowed to reopen. Parks are ready to reopen responsibly in Tier 3 with significant modifications that protect the health and safety of both employees and guests.”
Unemployed Universal Studios Hollywood ride mechanic Lavelle Pratt has repeatedly asked Newsom to allow California theme parks to reopen immediately.
“I’m 3 to 4 months away from losing everything and living in a car,” Pratt said via email. “I’m dying financially.”