Disney World Move Clears Way for Actors' Union to Return

August 12, 2020, 5:39 PM · Several of Walt Disney World's most popular live shows could be returning soon, after the union representing their performers said it has agreed to allow its members to return to work.

Actors’ Equity Association said that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Walt Disney World Resort after Disney agreed to provide Covid-19 testing for cast members at the resort.

"We have been consistent that testing is an important part of ensuring a safe workplace for Equity performers, and today, I’m pleased to see that Disney World has agreed," Actors’ Equity Association President Kate Shindle said. "With the news that Disney will make testing available for Equity performers and others in the park, I’m happy to announce that Equity’s executive committee has signed a memorandum of understanding with Disney for Equity performers to return."

Unions representing other Walt Disney World cast members had signed agreements with the company for their covered employees to return to the resort under its new health and safety procedures, but Equity had held out for expanded on-site testing. Disney declined to recall those performers, leaving their shows dark since the parks reopened last month.

Shows affected by the dispute include Festival of the Lion King, Finding Nemo - The Musical, Beauty and the Beast - Live on Stage, and the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular.

It's not yet clear when any of these shows might reopen. Remember, with physical distancing requirements, they would have to play to sharply reduced capacities, so Disney might choose to continue to keep some shows dark purely for economic reasons.

Update: Disney is disputing the union leader's suggestion that it had opened its testing center at the union's request.

"We have offered the location to help with community testing and any suggestion that this has been done as a result of any one union is unfounded. The Florida Division of Emergency Management will operate the location which is available to Cast Members and their immediate families as well as Florida residents. Our actions support all cast and our community at large," Disney said in a statement.

Replies (4)

August 12, 2020 at 6:30 PM

This is fantastic news (in a time when "fantastic news" is hard to come by). I keep thinking back to that "returning to work" video that several Indiana Jones cast members put together a few months ago (which introduced me to an earworm of a song I'd never heard before but is a bop), and hoping that they all come "rolling" in like they do in the video (probably not a good idea in real life, but it made for a great video). Disney parks just aren't the same without the Equity actors (sure, Disney CAN operate without them, as we've seen, but it's a different experience), and I'm glad it seems that they've made peace.

August 17, 2020 at 8:34 PM

The media is framing this like Disney gave into the union, but the reality of the situation is that the testing in Central Florida (or the country in general) is still not fast or ubiquitous enough to meet Disney's needs, so it makes sense to open a testing center for Disney. Disney is losing a ton of $ right now paying overtime due to call ins because of all of the people calling in because they are not getting points so this gives them a step in the direction of getting a better hold of who is calling out and why and ultimately can reinstate a point system. I don't think it has anything to do with the equity union they were just feeling the pressure from their members to get back to work and are making a big deal out of it like they are the heroes.

August 13, 2020 at 6:07 AM

the_man: "Disney is losing a ton of $ right now paying overtime due to call ins because of all of the people calling in ..."

Me: Got a source for that claim? And what constitutes "a ton"? And what percentage of the call-ins are sick (legit)?

August 15, 2020 at 3:08 PM

I’d think they’ll have a better return to work and attendance rate now that the $600 federal add on to unemployment is gone.

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