While Walt Disney World theme parks have reopened in phases over the last several weeks, thousands of workers still have not been called back. Amongst these are all performers that are part of Actors Equity Association that guests see in shows like Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. You may also see them strolling along Main Street or Sunset Boulevard as atmosphere entertainment (streetmosphere) within the parks.
For clarification, performers at Universal Orlando down the road are not covered by a union agreement. This means the majority of those actors have returned to work since the park reopened. There are benefits to having a union as well as some drawbacks. In the case of Universal Orlando, those actors worked directly with management to create what they considered to be a safe work environment.
On the other side, Disney has an agreement with the Actors Equity Association for their actors. The union helps negotiate, on the actors behalf, things like having a safe and fair work environment. As a result of the pandemic, COVID-19 tests have become the major issue between Disney and AEA. In short, the union wants Disney to provide them since they don’t want performers to wear masks and Disney is not interested in providing those tests.
This becomes complicated as Disney doesn’t provide COVID-19 testing to any of it’s other cast members who have already returned to work. Thus, the argument might be that other unions could also request testing which could cost Disney quite a bit of money during a time when they’re looking to keep costs down.
Thus, all of these performers still have not been called back to work. Where this gets interesting is how the Actors Equity Association has been speaking on behalf of its members and the actors of Walt Disney World (see video above). A few days ago they released a video showing the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in Florida as a way to convince Disney to provide testing to the actors and bring them back to work.
Meanwhile, many performers at Walt Disney World don’t agree with how Actors Equity Association is handling the situation. They believe that Disney is already doing enough to create a safe work environment for them to return to work now.
In a recent video that was released featuring Walt Disney World performers, they are sending a different message. Their slogan is #BringBackTheMagic and they want the world to know what their jobs mean to them.
Without addressing the AEA directly, they want to send their own message. Many of them feel that the union is misrepresenting them in this situation. They are ready to return to work soon and to start performing again. Let’s hope both sides can come to an agreement soon!
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