What Do Cast Members Wish You Knew about the Park?
Disney theme parks have reopened, which is terrific for everyone.
As Disney fans, we can revisit the theme parks or, at a minimum, watch park livestreams on MickeyBlog’s Facebook page.
For Disney workers and the Central Florida economy, the park’s reopening is a godsend. The situation got grim in April and May.
Just because the parks have returned doesn’t mean that everything is perfect, though. Park employees have faced some unusual upheaval lately.
Here are some things cast members wish you understood about the parks operating during the pandemic.
They Really Need This Job
I’ll spell this one out for you. Life isn’t great in Orlando at the moment. The entire city thrives due to tourist dollars.
Virtually overnight, that money vanished. The city’s economy got wiped out in the process, and the state government cannot help.
After all, the rest of Florida lives off its tourist income, too. So, hotbeds like the beaches and Miami have taken a financial beating as well.
You may have heard some ill-informed people say that cast members don’t want to go back due to their unemployment income being so good.
Friends, the unemployment system in Florida is absolutely wrecked. A shocking number of people still haven’t received their first check yet.
The situation has become so dire that one out of every six people in Orlando is currently unemployed.
Meanwhile, the governor is kicking the can down the road on a secondary challenge.
People are so far behind on their rent that evictions would happen now if not for governmental prevention.
If a cast member gets laid off or fired, the person would face grim job prospects and may have to move out of their current housing.
Many Disney employees are working in their dream job. However, if they lost it, their lives would collapse overnight. That causes a lot of pressure.
The Job Is Harder Right Now
Then, there’s the secondary aspect. Disney has disabled the Disney College Program for the Fall and possibly much longer.
Similarly, the Cultural Representative Program is on hold until international travel restrictions loosen.
In fact, due to the job market struggles in Central Florida, Disney may populate the World Showcase with American workers indefinitely to help the area.
The logical outcome from these changes is that longtime Disney employees suddenly find themselves working new jobs at the parks.
I’m unsure how much attention you’ve paid to staffing matters at Magic Kingdom, but it skews young for a reason.
The college program has enabled students to learn about the job environment at Disney. Meanwhile, the company has received inexpensive labor.
With that option unavailable, the parks now feature an older work crew that must learn new jobs.
Thankfully, these job assignments feature shorter learning curves. Otherwise, college students couldn’t do them.
Still, it’s a significant change for Disney workers, some of whom have performed the same job duties for 10+ years.
You may wonder what the big deal is. To that question, I would relay an anecdote about a server I had at Sci-Fi Dine-In a few years ago.
This gentleman struggled mightily and was in a terrible mood because of it.
Later, he explained that he had worked at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa for many years.
The company “rewarded” him by offering the potential to earn more as a server. After three weeks, he already knew he hated the new job and had asked to go back.
This cast member, like many, was less interested in his paycheck. He wanted to work somewhere at the parks where he could make people’s vacations better.
While we’re talking about cast member worries, let’s address the obvious one.
You may have heard that some Disney worker unions filed grievances regarding safety issues.
Disney has settled some of these matters while others remain in flux.
For instance, the Actors’ Equity Association has shared worries, which has caused Disney to operate some of its shows with different workers.
At Disneyland, tens of thousands of cast members signed petitions requesting that the parks not reopen.
Workers haven’t taken these steps randomly. Many cast members fear for their safety.
You likely followed MickeyBlog’s coverage of the combative negotiations regarding cast member pay.
The hard-won victory by the union guaranteed the workers pay of $15 an hour. That’s $31,200 a year.
Disney doesn’t have to pay as much as some companies because people dream of working at the parks.
During a pandemic, many of these employees rightfully wonder why they’re risking their lives for $15 an hour.
To their credit, these loyal cast members have dutifully shown up for work and demonstrated incredible acts of kindness to park guests.
Still, many of these Disney employees fear COVID-19, especially since Florida’s July infection numbers were record-breaking.
When you interact with a cast member, PLEASE let them know how grateful you are that they’re jeopardizing their health to bring joy into the lives of others.
The Rules Are the Rules
Yes, that’s a tautology.
Still, you would be shocked if you knew how many guests show up at Disney, stubbornly believing that the rules don’t apply to them.
People have tried every trick in the book to avoid getting their temperature taken.
These same individuals have ignored the ubiquitous social distancing signs and loudspeaker messages.
An entitled few run around the park haphazardly, shunning hand sanitizer stations and touching all the merchandise in stores.
I’ve mentioned that cast members already face new job duties. Well, one of them is reminding guests to follow the rules.
When park visitors behave irresponsibly, it makes workers’ lives harder. Why would anyone want to do that to kindly Disney employees?
You Need to Wear a Mask
I’m giving this one its own unique category since it’s caused so many problems.
Disney executives knew ahead of time that some people would bristle at the thought of wearing masks.
The issue somehow became political rather than common-sense based.
However, at Disney’s American theme parks, mask issues introduce a second layer to the discussions. These places are hot.
Some people who spend a full day at the parks get fatigued. So, they want to remove their masks to breathe more easily.
Disney anticipated this need and added Relaxation Stations. At these spots, guests may safely remove their masks.
Even with this benefit in place, some visitors refused to follow the rules.
The mask policy included an exception for eating and drinking. Guests could remove their masks if they had food or beverage in hand.
What happened? You guessed it! Some folks abused that policy so much that Disney had to alter the rules.
Now, you can’t even walk through the parks when you’re eating or drinking. You must step off to the side.
For cast members, this change has caused them two kinds of aggravation.
First, they must make guests aware of the policy, which is different from the one that received a lot of media attention.
Next, they must enforce the policy by asking guests with food or beverages to stand off to the side and remain stationary until they’ve finished eating/drinking.
From the start of training, Disney teaches its employees not to do anything to ruin the magic of the experience for guests.
Now, cast members must either nag or narc on misbehaving guests. And that gives them additional stress beyond what we’ve already discussed.
They Have Less Latitude
Finally, cast members wish you understood that they have little control over the pandemic. Also, they don’t get to set the rules at Disney theme parks.
When operating at full strength, Walt Disney World staffs more than 70,000 people.
Each cast member gets one vote, and it doesn’t count as much as Bob Chapek’s or Bob Iger’s.
So, when I say that the rules are the rules, I also mean that cast members can’t authorize you to ignore them.
Similarly, you may know about Magical Moments, those random things park employees do to make your trip better.
Don’t worry! Those are still in play during the pandemic. However, cast members possess a smaller array of options.
Disney works under a different set of operating procedures while combating Coronavirus.
So, cast members cannot give you FastPasses or trading pins no matter how much you plead, beg, and cry.
Thankfully, pin trading options remain, but cast members cannot touch them. It’s one of the many concessions to the pandemic.
The worst part of limited authority is that cast members haaaaaate telling people no.
Unfortunately, it’s substantially more challenging to discover “Yes!” solutions now.
Still, cast members will do everything they can to make your vacation unforgettable.
So, please be aware of these issues so that you can meet them halfway.
Feature Image: Disney