Actors’ Equity Association, the national labor union representing professional actors and stage managers in live theatre, released the following statement after signing a memorandum of understanding with Walt Disney World regarding layoffs of most of their Equity member employees.
“Our hearts go out to all the cast members at Walt Disney World,” said Kate Shindle, president of Actors’ Equity Association. “Disney has made it clear that our members would face work reductions since they announced layoffs of nearly 28,000 employees. That does not make this news any less painful. These reductions are another tragic reminder that until the virus is brought under control with a national strategy for masks, testing and contact tracing, everyone who works in the arts needs help like extended pandemic unemployment insurance and federal COBRA health insurance subsidies.”
Before the pandemic, about 780 Equity members were employed at Walt Disney World, either full time, part time or seasonally. About 60 are currently working or about to return to work in the park. About 720 Equity member workers have now been laid off. According to the new MOU with Disney, these laid-off members maintain recall rights until the end of 2021.
Equity has been fighting for a governmental response to an arts industry shutdown since March, when it first asked for an economic relief package for an industry in crisis. The union then fought for the passage of the CARES Act in March, helping expand the bill to apply to arts workers who lost future work. It is currently fighting for passage of the HEROES Act, as well as a full COBRA subsidy for workers who have lost their employment-based insurance.