EXCLUSIVE: The executive committee of Actors’ Equity Association unanimously has rejected Walt Disney World’s reopening safety plan for workers because the proposal does not include coronavirus testing for the park’s performers.
In an email to its members that was obtained by Deadline, Equity writes: “Disney knows that testing makes for a safer work place. Why else would Disney agree to testing for film productions? If testing helps keep a film set safe, that is also true for performers in the parks. Despite that, we have not reached an agreement with Disney for testing.”
Walt Disney World in Orlando is planning a phased reopening beginning July 11. Deadline has reached out to Disney for comment.
The email follows last week’s demands by Equity that Walt Disney World include the testing as “a fundamental part of maintaining a safe and healthy environment for everyone, from the guests to the cast.”
The amusement park’s website indicates that safety precautions will include enhanced cleanings, physical distancing, reduced contact and mandatory face coverings for all guests and cast members and possible temperature readings.
Mary McColl, executive director of Actors’ Equity Association, said in a statement last week: “It is deeply disturbing that while coronavirus cases in Florida surge, Disney is refusing to provide regular testing to one of the few groups of workers in the park who by the very nature of their jobs, cannot use personal protective equipment. Now is the time for Disney to pause, focus on the science and put the safety of their actors and stage managers first by making regular testing available.”
In the new memo to members, Equity says that testing “has only become more important over the last week. Since our public call last week for testing, there have been more than 43,000 new coronavirus cases in Florida.”
The recommendation for testing comes from Dr. David Michaels, the former director of OSHA who was recruited by Equity this spring to advise the union on health and safety protocols during the pandemic.
The email indicates that Walt Disney World has not, as yet, recalled Equity members to work, though the union had agreed not to stand in the way of contacting workers while negotiations for the safety plan were ongoing.
“They made the decision to postpone recalling you to work,” Equity writes. “If Disney really thinks their plan is safe, why have they postponed recalling you?”
Equity’s leadership has been conducting Zoom meetings with members during the past week to discuss the Orlando situation. The exec committee now is calling on members to speak out on the matter.
“Please join us on social media and help the public understand that a park without testing is putting performers and patrons alike at risk,” the message states.
Disneyland in Southern California remains closed until further notice. Equity does not represent that park’s performers.
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