Not so long ago, the magic of Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort wasn’t just for Guests at the popular theme parks — it extended to the Cast Members who worked there.
For many workers in the Orlando, FL, and Anaheim, CA, areas, positions with The Walt Disney Company meant job security for them and their families — after all, Disney is one of the most stable companies on earth.
That is, until the pandemic hit. Now, as the company’s layoff numbers mount — last week 4,000 additional Disney layoffs were confirmed, and 11,000 more at Disneyland Resort alone were discovered just yesterday — Cast Members are struggling to get by as the virus rages on.
Although Walt Disney World Resort is currently open, they are still operating with health and safety in-mind. Capacity remains limited and many experiences — such as stage shows and street performances at EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom — have been heavily modified or suspended for the time being. This has led to numerous entertainment layoffs, in particular.
Disneyland Resort, as most Disney Parks fans know, remains temporarily closed pending state government approvals to reopen. Both Disney California Adventure — excepting limited shopping and dining on Buena Vista Street — and Disneyland Park are not operational at this time.
Since Cast Members do not precisely when (or even if) they will be recalled to their Disney theme park jobs, stress is inevitable. The Guardian shared details about a particular Cast Member’s experience.
Laura Cave Braunston was a server at Walt Disney World Resort for 12 years before she received her layoff notice. It will take effect at the end of 2020. Braunston told The Guardian:
“It’s been absolutely hard to pay bills and put food on the table. We’ve had to go to food drives, and those started out with a few hundred people, now the lines are over a thousand,” said Braunston.
Her union, Unite Here Local 737, fought for her and coworkers to receive recall rights until the end of 2022, but in the meantime Braunston has struggled to find another job and recently started an Etsy shop to try to provide her family with some income. Her husband’s hours were recently reduced, and after they both tested positive for coronavirus in June 2020, which hospitalized her husband, he is suffering from chronic fatigue issues.
Braunston is not the only Cast Member who is fighting to make it right now by starting a side business. If you’re interested in supporting small businesses operated by Disneyland and Disney World employees, we’ve compiled a guide to some great holiday gifts!
Braunston also noted:
“Now we’re just in pain. An awful lot of pain,” she added. “Disney executives have returned to full pay and we’re struggling to get by on what we make.”
Another former Walt Disney World restaurant server named Madison also spoke to The Guardian, sharing:
“When I found out I was laid off, I just completely broke down. I was hysterically crying in my car in the parking lot of an Ikea while my boyfriend tried to calm me down,” she said.
It took almost two months from when she was furloughed to start receiving unemployment benefits, and Madison and her boyfriend wound up having to use the savings they had accrued for a place of their own on living expenses.
As a team of Disney Parks lovers, the entire ITM staff wishes nothing but the best for all Cast Members impacted by Disney’s mass layoffs moving forward. If you would like to help, we’ve provided helpful resources below:
- How You Can Help Bring Back Disney’s Citizens of Hollywood
- As Disney Workers Lose Jobs, Cast Member Pantry Expands to CA
- See What You Can Do to Support the Disney World Cast Member Food Pantry
- Disney Cast Member Starts GoFundMe for Laid Off Employees
Have you decided to support Disney Parks Cast Members this holiday season?