Local 50, the union that represents many Disneyland employees recently posted a statement on its Facebook page announcing that it had received notice that Disney will be moving forward with a vaccine mandate for employees of the Anaheim park. According to the post, “The deadline will be April 11th to have verification of vaccination submitted.”
The announcement sparked much discussion among members and union brass on the Local 50 Facebook page. Beyond the usual arguments over HIIPA — which does not apply to vaccination status — and whether companies can require certain vaccinations as a part of employment, many commenters wanted to know why the union didn’t get the park to require guests to be vaccinated, as well.
“For everyone asking why we didn’t come to an agreement with Disney. We requested that they also require guests to show proof of vaccination or a negative test and Disney said no,” wrote Local 50 Steward Chris Shively on the union’s Facebook page. “Disney has no intent to require guests to show proof of vaccinations or a negative test. They have specifically communicated that to us.”
Asked whether the union specified why it wanted guests as well as Cast Members to be vaccinated — i.e. safety — Shively responded, “Yeah of course we did. The company said no. They had no interest in wanting to require guests to show proof of vaccination or negative test.”
The Anaheim park does not require proof of vaccination for guests, but rather asks guests to “self-attest that they are in compliance” with California’s recommendations, which include either full vaccination or a recent negative test before entry. Self-attestation is not considered a best practice by many medical experts and, indeed, is not allowed in the state for entry into indoor “mega-events” of over 500 people, such as concerts, sporting events and the like.
For outdoor events over 5,000 people — which one assumes includes Disneyland — however, attestation is allowed, but not recommended. “CDPH does not recommend using self-attestation to verify vaccination status or negative test results” for such events, per the state’s Covid web site. It should be noted that Disneyland does require masking when indoors or on rides.
The state’s stance on theme parks was much more restrictive early in the pandemic, with Governor Newsom insisting they stay closed even while other sectors were allowed to stay open. Park operators and a trade group representing them contended that they had a long history of preventing infection and were actually safer than other venues that had been allowed to reopen. The disagreement actually led to a rift between then-Disney chief Bob Iger and Newsom.
Here is the original statement recently posted on the Local 50 Facebook page:
We have received notice, after months of good faith negotiations on the matter, that the company will be moving forward on a vaccine mandate for Local 50 and other Union’s not currently under a mandate. Cast will receive an email with details of the mandate. The deadline will be April 11th to have verification of vaccination submitted. Accommodations for religious and/or medical reasons will be available.
Disney, for its part, informed all salaried and non-union cast members in July that they would need to be fully vaccinated. Since then, according to a Disneyland official, the company has been negotiating with unions representing many remaining workers under collective bargaining agreements. Members covered by those agreements must now complete vaccination protocols by March 28, per the park official.
While the company’s stated vaccination protocol completion date of March 28 may seem at odds with the April 11 deadline indicated by Local 50, the two may be points on the same timeline if the former means becoming fully vaccinated and the latter submitting proof thereof. In fact, a two week window between the two would be prudent, given it would allow the immunity conferred by vaccination to be in full effect.
Disney has maintained that their most important responsibility is to keep workers safe and that, per the advice of nearly every major medical body worldwide, vaccination is the most effective way to do so. The Anaheim park, which was turned into a mass vaccination site during last year’s lockdown, has also indicated it will make vaccines available to cast members on site, rather than sending them to clinics or doctor’s offices.
The majority of the park’s workers have already reportedly already been vaccinated, but Disney has said it will make provisions for “certain limited exceptions,” which likely means provisions for those with medical conditions that prohibit vaccination and for those who have religious beliefs that prevent vaccination.
The Walt Disney Company issued the following statement back when the mandate was announced:
At The Walt Disney Company, the safety and well-being of our employees during the pandemic has been and continues to be a top priority. Toward that end, and based on the latest recommendations of scientists, health officials and our own medical professionals that the COVID-19 vaccine provides the best protection against severe infection, we are requiring that all salaried and non-union hourly employees in the U.S. working at any of our sites be fully vaccinated. Employees who aren’t already vaccinated and are working on-site will have 60 days from today to complete their protocols and any employees still working from home will need to provide verification of vaccination prior to their return, with certain limited exceptions. We have also begun conversations around this topic with the unions representing our employees under collective bargaining agreements. In addition, all new hires will be required to be fully vaccinated before beginning employment. Vaccines are the best tool we all have to help control this global pandemic and protect our employees.
Walt Disney World in Orlando put its employee vaccine mandate on hold in November after Florida state legislators, strongly urged by Governor Ron DeSantis, passed a flurry of bills that curtailed mask and vaccine mandates.
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