Disney World actors ready to work after COVID testing dispute resolved

The Actors' Equity Association had called on Walt Disney Co's to provide regular COVID-19 testing for its members, who cannot wear protective masks while performing as other park employees do.

Sunlight breaks through clouds near Disney World in Orlando, Florida, U.S. September 8, 2017. Photo/REUTERS | Astro Awani
Walt Disney World actors, who argued that the Florida theme park's proposed coronavirus safeguards were inadequate to protect them, have resolved a dispute over COVID-19 testing, according to a union statement on Wednesday.

The Actors' Equity Association had called on Walt Disney Co's to provide regular coronavirus testing for its members, who cannot wear protective masks while performing as other park employees do.
Disney agreed to provide space just outside Walt Disney World in Orlando for a state-run testing site, the union and the company said. The Florida Division of Emergency Management will operate the location. It will be open to Disney employees, known as cast members, and the public.

"Our actions support all cast and our community at large," Disney said in a statement.

Walt Disney World reopened its gates on July 11 with several safety measures including limited attendance, social distancing in lines and on rides and mask requirements for guests and staff.

Actors' Equity, which represents roughly 750 stage performers in shows such as the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular and Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage at the park, said the measures did not go far enough and called for regular testing. Disney opened the theme park without those performers.

"We have been consistent that testing is an important part of ensuring a safe workplace for Equity performers, and today, I’m pleased to see that Disney World has agreed," Kate Shindle, president of the Actors’ Equity Association, said in a statement.

The union said it had signed a memo of understanding with Disney and was waiting to hear how many actors the company would recall during its limited operations.

Disney said it offered its space "to help with community testing" and that "any suggestion that this has been done as a result of any one union is unfounded."