Osceola County

As Disney parks begin to reopen, some furloughed cast members still waiting to head back

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Walt Disney World’s theme parks are starting to reopen, but not all cast members are returning to work.

“(I’m) waiting for my unemployment to come through and praying that Disney calls me soon,” said Danielle Raniere, a furloughed cast member. “There’s nothing there, just bills, and there’s no way to pay them. It’s just really scary.”

Read: Lightning strikes crane near hotel construction site at Disney World

Unite Here Local 737, which represents housekeeping, food and beverage cast members said 7,000 out of 18,000 cast members were called back, about 39%.

For attraction and custodial workers with Local 362, more than 80% are heading back to work.

Before the pandemic, Disney paid more than 70,000 cast members.

But some said there’s a ripple effect in the community when the theme parks suffer.

“My landlord’s a cast member, all three of us in this house are cast members, and there are tons of stories like that right here in the Orlando area,” said Cory Escobar, another furloughed cast member. “It’s a web that stretches out very far.”

Read: Walt Disney World releases list of safety precautions ahead of reopening

Raniere and Escobar said they’re concerned about COVID-19, but it’s not their biggest worry.

“At this point I’d rather risk my health than be destitute with no money,” Raniere said. “I’m just scared, that’s all.”

Disney employs the largest share of theme park workers, but Universal and SeaWorld employ about 30,000 people, and not all of them are back to work either, despite those parks reopening in June.

Read: Disney theme park ticket sales, hotel reservations resume for 2020

Cierra Putman

Cierra Putman, WFTV.com

Cierra Putman flew south to join Eyewitness News in July 2016.

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.