Disney World lays off 720 actors, singers because of pandemic

Coronavirus

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (WFLA) — With many of its live entertainment shows gone dark because of the coronavirus, Walt Disney World is laying off 720 actors and singers.

Actors’ Equity Association is the labor union representing the performers and says only 60 Equity performers are working or returning to work at the Orlando, Florida-based theme park resort.

“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.”

Wednesday’s layoffs come weeks after The Walt Disney Co. announced it was eliminating 28,000 jobs in its parks division in California and Florida because of restrictions and costs from the pandemic.

“I would literally tear up watching the fireworks. ‘Oh my gosh, I get to work in my dream place’,” said Lakeland’s Jayde Gomez, who found out she was officially laid off this week.

The Polk County woman grew up visiting Disney World monthly, if not more often.

She participated in the college program and became a cast member this year.

“I love the company and I loved what I did. Knowing that I’m not going be able to go back there, see the people that I became friends with or even do that job, it was kind of hard,” she said.

“We never imagined anything like this would happen. They’re not a company that you think, oh you know, they’re going to move to China,” said Julee Jerkovich, a union representative at UFCW Local 1625.

That union represents merchandise, florists and tipped catering cast members at Walt Disney World.

All of Jerkovich’s full-time union members have retained their jobs.

Her union is absorbing 1,400 full-time displaced Disney employees from other unions.

“We have people coming in from all sorts of jobs. Everything from stage tech, culinary, people who worked in costuming, wardrobe, housekeeping, so coming into merchandise is gonna be a bit of a transition,” she said.

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