Walt Disney World Resort employees have started to protest the widespread unemployment in Orlando, Florida. Here’s what they’re saying.
- Walt Disney World Resort workers have begin protesting Florida’s unemployment system as uncertainty continues to rise.
- Though social distancing keeps workers from gathering to protest, they have figured out another way to make a big statement: sharing their opinions and messages in front of their homes so they can be visible to the public.
- Disney World has furloughed tens of thousands of employees, but because a reopening date for the theme parks has not yet been confirmed, it’s unclear how long Cast Member and employee unemployment will last.
Disney furloughed 43,000 Walt Disney World Cast Members over the weekend. Since then, many have started to peacefully protest.
A recent report by WKMG News 6 shared that workers have begun writing messages on their sidewalks and driveways, hanging signs in the windows of their homes, and even writing on their mailboxes in the hopes of catching public attention.
“This system has been failing for years. Somebody needs to speak up,” said Lacey Gamble, who works at Disney World’s EPCOT as a server. “We need to feed our children. We need to pay our bills.”
Over the weekend, Gamble used sidewalk chalk to draw Sulley from Monsters, Inc. and Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast along with the message, “SOS #WorkersCan’tWait.”
Another employee — Hew Kowalewski, a food and beverage trainer at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort — worries what will happen in two weeks after he receives his last paycheck for a while.
“It’s the uncertainty that’s the worst,” Kowalewski said. “How long can I use my savings to pay my rent and food when I don’t know when I’m going back to work?”
Kowalewski is another worker protesting the unemployment system in Florida. “S.O.S. Fix the Broken Unemployment Website NOW!” read a sign displayed in the front window of Kowalewski’s home.
What Disney is Doing
Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort has been paying workers since the theme parks closed in March. Since the initial announcement of the theme parks closing, Disney has made the decision to furlough and pay non-union workers, and the company has come to furlough and payment agreements with several unions so that unionized workers could be protected, as well.
Workers will be able to keep their benefits through the duration of the theme park closures, or up to one year. Their job seniority and wage rates will also remain unchanged.
What Will Come From This Protest?
But it looks like the workers aren’t protesting Disney: they are protesting the state of Florida’s unemployment system. Florida residents filing for unemployment can only receive a maximum of $275 per week. And since it’s unclear when the theme parks will reopen, Disney World workers are not feeling so secure.
“The system is broken,” said Jeremy Haicken, president of Unite Here Local 737, one of the many unions representing Disney World employees. “We’re not going to stop until Gov. DeSantis fixes this unemployment system.”
We at Inside the Magic will continue to update our website as both Disney officials and government officials share more information regarding theme park closures, unemployment, and more. Our hearts are with Disney workers and Cast Members during this time. The magic comes from you.