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Disneyland employees, hotel and resort workers continue to face job uncertainty during the pandemic after Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would’ve mandated employers hire them back when the industry reopens.
“The hospitality industry and its employees have been hit hard by the economic impacts of the pandemic. I believe the requirements of this bill place too onerous a burden on employers navigating these tough challenges, and I would encourage the legislature to consider other approaches to ensure workers are not left behind,” Newsom said in a late Wednesday night statement.
Newsom’s veto comes on the heels of Disney’s Tuesday announcement that it’s laying off 28,000 workers at its U.S. theme parks.
UNITE HERE Local 11 President Ada Briceño said the layoffs will hit roughly one-third of the 3,000 Disney employees the union represents by the end of the month.
“What can I say? It’s devastating to our low-wage workers who built that industry and don’t forget our industry is especially women of color and they were relying on him,” Briceño said in a Thursday phone interview.
She said the bill was an effort based on past experiences after the hospitality and resort industries took a nosedive following 9/11 and the Great Recession.
When the industry rebounded, they hired less experienced, cheaper workers instead of their old employees, Briceño said.
“People were already one paycheck away from homelessness before this crisis began. We see a lot of cracks in our structures. We have seen how the industry responded before.”
Scores of union members drove up to Sacramento yesterday in an effort to urge Newsom to sign the bill.
It’s the second caravan of hospitality employees to go to Sacramento in support of the bill.
Disneyland Hotel employee and UNITE HERE member Inez Guzman was in the first caravan last week.
Guzman said the Governor or any of his representatives didn’t meet with them.
“I’ve been furloughed since March 3 and I’ve been depending on unemployment,” Guzman said, adding it became harder after the extra $600 unemployment ended in July.
She said it took over a month to get her first unemployment check.
Guzman also said she worries if she’ll be able to go back to work anytime soon.
“I’m just worried about what can happen. What’s the next step and how are we going to get through this?”
For now, the union will focus on the upcoming November election and they’ll figure out what to do about the bill after, Briceño said.
“We are really switching gears to the election at this point. So it’s premature to say what we will do after the election,” she said.
Meanwhile, Disney and various local elected leaders are upping pressure on Newsom and state public health officials to release theme park reopening guidelines.
For months, Newsom said he would be releasing guidelines “very soon.”
Disneyland tried to reopen the park in July for its 65th anniversary, but Newsom and state public health officials didn’t green light their plans in June.
During that time, cases were steadily climbing in OC and across the state. At one point in July, there were over 700 people in hospitals throughout the county.
Reports of doctor and nurse fatigue were streaming out of the medical community.
Most recently, state health officials have noticed an uptick in coronavirus cases.
Since the pandemic began in March, the virus has killed 1,275 county residents out of 53,909 confirmed cases, including seven new deaths reported Thursday, according to the county Health Care Agency.
For context, Orange County has averaged around 20,000 deaths a year since 2016, according to state health data. According to those same statistics, the flu kills about 543 OC residents annually.
There are currently 173 people hospitalized, including 45 in intensive care units.
Over 870,000 tests have been conducted through OC, which is home to roughly 3.2 million people. Some people, like medical workers and other frontline workers, are tested numerous times throughout the pandemic.
At a Thursday news conference, County CEO Frank Kim said he wrote a letter of support on behalf of Disneyland to send to Newsom, encouraging him to issue reopening guidelines.
“What I would say is Disneyland has done an incredible job of addressing the health safety issues,” Kim said.
He said he toured Disneyland last week to see how it would regulate the restaurants and lines.
“We believe they can manage that very safely. In fact I wrote a letter of support on behalf of Disney,” Kim said.
“I think we’ve all heard that Disney has opened all of their other worldwide theme parks and they have quite a bit of experience doing that.”
Union officials said they’re still in talks with Disney for things like automatic virus testing and various health measures.
Guzman, the Disneyland hotel employee, said she’s eager to get back to work, but in a safe environment.
“My whole hope is Disney has our protection. We need our protection so we don’t bring it home to our family and our loved ones — or our fellow cast members get sick.”
Here’s the latest on the virus numbers across Orange County from county data: