Walt Disney World Cast Members Staging Stay-at-Home Protests Due to Unreliable Florida Unemployment Website
With all non-essential Cast Members (non-union and most union members at this point) to be temporarily furloughed starting April 19, things are starting to get very real for the roughly 77,000 magic makers of Walt Disney World Resort, and frustrations are ramping up regarding the faulty unemployment filing process across the state. While Cast Members are expected to keep any health benefits they’re currently enrolled for, they’ll no longer receive wages after April 19. Many will now have to file for state unemployment, which will only garner them a maximum total of $275 a week, among the lowest in the nation. (On the Federal level, the CARES Act will be providing a $600-a-week bonus through July 31 for those who have successfully registered as unemployed.)
Between the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis and the unreliable unemployment system, Cast are staging stay-at-home protests––except they aren’t aimed at Disney. They’re aimed at the State of Florida. As Click Orlando reports, they’re taking to the streets in the form of sidewalk chalk art, window signs, and messages on mailboxes with the hashtags #WorkersCantWait to voice their concerns about the unreliable system.
As April 19 approaches, tens of thousands of furloughed employees will be flooding the unemployment websites and phone lines. So far, reports on the application process have been grim, with entire applications disappearing, long waits to get through the online queues, and applicants getting bumped out of the system halfway through completing the form. At first, the government recommended that applicants use Internet Explorer, an outdated web browser that is known for being glitchy and unresponsive. The Department of Economic Opportunity states the site has been seeing approximately 120,000 simultaneous users lately, or double the peak usage since the first furloughs started. The call-in department received roughly 3.8 million calls just last week.
For Cast Members in need of income, the only thing they can do is hope that the broken unemployment website gets fixed (or otherwise send in a paper application), and continue application attempts until they’re successful. Jeremy Haicken, president of the Unite Here Local 737 union, part of the Service Trades Council stated, “We’re not going to stop until Gov. DeSantis fixes this unemployment system.”