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Disney's theme parks have been closed around the world since the middle of March and at this point there's no timetable for when they might reopen. When the closure of Walt Disney World was originally announced, it was only scheduled for two weeks, and the company announced it would keep paying the park's cast members through the end of March. Disney then continued to pay its cast members when the closure was extended. However, we now know that, as of April 19, all 43,000 of Walt Disney World's union cast members will be furloughed. Now, thanks to one of the unions that represents the Walt Disney world cast members, we know a bit more about just what this will mean to those people affected by it.
In a video posted to Facebook, Eric Clinton, the President of Unite Here #362, one of the unions that represent Walt Disney World cast members, explains that, while most workers will be furloughed as of this weekend, the unions worked with Disney and have obtained a number of commitments from the company that will be good news for members.
As is the case with most other furloughed workers, they will all be eligible to file for unemployment during the period of the furlough. However, in what is likely an even bigger win, especially under the circumstances, Disney will continue to provide heath care to all employees who were receiving it through the company prior to the closure, and it will be available at no cost to the cast members. Any cast members who were in their 90-day probation period when the closure started will also be eligible for health insurance, even though they hadn't been eligible previously. Disney will cover the costs of health insurance for the next 12 months.
In addition, cast members will receive credit for the hours they would have worked when it comes to future health care eligibility as well as pension benefits. Also, between now and April 18, any cast member who wants to cash out accrued vacation time will have the ability to do so.
There are some Disney cast members, less than 200, who are considered "essential" who will continue to work in the park. These will cover everything from custodial and housekeeping positions to lake patrol and culinary positions. The company will be looking for volunteers first to fill those rolls.
Disney is one of, if not the single largest employers in the state of Florida, data is a bit difficult to parse since so much of the company is divided among multiple divisions. Considering how many people work for the company, the closure has a massive impact on the state as a huge number of people are about to become unemployed.
How much longer this closure will last is anybody's guess. From all accounts, even when the parks are given the all clear, it's likely things won't be going "back to normal" instantly, so there is still a lot more uncertainty to be dealt with.