When The Walt Disney Company announced 28,000 theme park layoffs in September, fans of Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort were shocked by the news. More recently, additional layoffs — taking the total to approximately 40,000 — have been confirmed.
Now, one Cast Member who worked as a server at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort for over a decade has shared her story. Per the Washington Post:
“Dear Cast Member,” the late October layoff notice began.
Flaviana Decker, 44, retreated to her living room couch and tried to stop her tears before her eldest daughter, due home from school any second, burst through the door. Her 14-year career as a Disney World waitress was over…
“They could have at least used our name,” one server wrote.
“That’s all we are, just a number,” another added.
Flaviana wasn’t angry at Disney. She was too scared for her girls and herself to be anything other than worried. “I wish I could be at work,” she typed.
Here's the original story: https://t.co/XMvjMbJZNW
— Greg Jaffe (@GregJaffe) December 12, 2020
Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, where Flaviana worked, is undergoing an extensive renovation and won’t reopen until Summer 2021. The closure extends to sit-down dining options like ‘Ohana, where the Lilo and Stitch character dining experience is especially popular among Walt Disney World Guests.
The Washington Post reports that Flaviana’s job had been a bright spot in her life amid a painful divorce and had helped her sustain a comfortable standard of living for herself and her two teenage daughters, one of whom requires expensive therapies for autism:
Flaviana was scouring the Disney fan blogs for glimmers of hope that the tourists might be returning. But the once famously long lines at Disney World remained short even as Orlando’s free food lines, packed with laid-off hotel and theme park workers, grew longer. All the while Flaviana’s unemployment checks shrank from more than $800 a week in July to $247 a week in October, which didn’t even cover her rent.
Flaviana relied on her work — and truly enjoyed her job making Disney magic as a Cast Member:
“What could make this stop being so good?” she would sometimes think as she headed off around 5 a.m. to work her regular breakfast shift. A hurricane could shut Disney down for a week, but the company would quickly rebuild. A terrorist attack would be a big setback, but Disney and her job would survive, she reasoned.
The crowds would always return. Her restaurant would always be packed. Her job would always be safe.
The pandemic, of course, was a worst-case scenario nobody could have imagined — a nightmare beyond most people’s wildest dreams. Flaviana, however, despite her struggles, continues to hold out a glimmer of hope that she could someday return to her job at Walt Disney World Resort.
“Is Disney a dream job? For me it was. I was around for my daughters,” she said. Still, she carried a nagging feeling that she had somehow failed. “I’ve been here for 20 years,” she said, “but I didn’t make it.”
To Flaviana, Disney World embodied the best of the United States. Now she was struggling to accept that both the company and her adopted country — her American Dream — were something less than they had seemed.
“I just hate, hate not being connected to it,” Flaviana said of Disney.
“It’s who you become,” her friend agreed.
“It’s where I belong,” Flaviana replied.
How can you help Cast Members?
If you would like to assist laid-off Cast Members during these challenging times, the Inside the Magic team has compiled a list of resources below, including Cast Member-run online shops you can purchase from this holiday season:
- This Etsy Seller Creates Beautiful Disney Confetti
- UPDATE: OC Mayor Shares Details About Disney Cast Member Assistance
- Disney Cast Member Helps Laid Off Employees Find New Work
- See What You Can Do to Support the Disney World Cast Member Food Pantry
- Disney Cast Member Starts GoFundMe for Laid Off Employees
- Holiday Gift Guide: Support Disney Cast Members & Their Small Businesses