Osceola County

‘8 weeks, 0 money’: Disney cast members express frustration at state’s unemployment system as resort prepares to reopen

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. — Thousands of Walt Disney World cast members are getting called back to work to get the parks ready to open, but union leaders say the majority of employees are still struggling to get by because of the state’s unemployment system.

Unite Here Local 737, which represents 19,000 Disney cast members, said during a news conference Monday that 30% of those employees have not received their money from the state’s problematic unemployment system.

Watch the news conference below:

WATCH LIVE: Largest Disney union provides updates

WATCH LIVE: Disney union leaders and Kissimmee mayor speak about resort's reopening and unemployment benefits. Read the full story: at.wftv.com/3ecEfIo

Posted by WFTV Channel 9 on Monday, June 15, 2020

During the news conference cast members, union leaders and Kissimmee mayor Jose Alvarez called out Gov. Ron DeSantis, saying more work needs to be done to get the money to the employees.

“I am stranded, I have no money left,” cast member Rori-Gaye Pitter said.

“I have not received one cent,” cast member Sally Nieves Ramos said. “It is disgusting how many times I have been kicked off the website, been hung up and how many times I have been lied to.”

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“I am in a position where I am unemployed through no fault of my own,” cast member Danielle Raniere said. “I am scared for what the future holds.”

Disney enrolled its furloughed cast members with the Department of Economic Opportunity. However, some of them said their information was not entered in its entirety.

Robert Hughes has been a cast member for 45 years.

“Right now my status is pending – eight weeks, zero money,” he said.

He said he calls the unemployment line about 50 times a day, sits on hold for hours and gets nowhere.

Hughes said it’s emotionally exhausting, and he has no idea when he will get back to work.

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Disney has brought back some of its food, beverage and hospitality union employees, but not all like dinner show servers including Hughes.

“I can’t deal with this anymore,” Hughes said.

Union president Jeremy Haicken said, as of Monday, the first week of recall includes 2,000 people, meaning 17,000 people are still at home.

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.