NATIONAL NEWS

Disneyland character and parade performers in California vote to join labor union

May 18, 2024, 9:49 PM

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Disneyland performers who help bring Mickey Mouse, Cinderella and other beloved characters to life at the Southern California resort chose to unionize following a three-day vote culminating on Saturday.

The Actors’ Equity Association labor union said in a statement Saturday that cast members for the parades and characters departments at Disney’s theme parks near Los Angeles voted by a wide margin for the union to become the bargaining agent for the group of roughly 1,700 workers.

An association website tracking the balloting among cast members indicated passage by 78.7% (953 votes) in favor and 21.3% (258 votes) opposed.

“They say that Disneyland is ‘the place where dreams come true,’ and for the Disney Cast Members who have worked to organize a union, their dream came true today,” Actors’ Equity Association President Kate Shindle said in a statement Saturday night.

Shindle called the workers the “front lines” of the Disneyland guest experience. The association and cast members will discuss improvements to health and safey, wages, benefits, working conditions and job security before meeting with Walt Disney Company representatives about negotiating the staff priorities into a contract, she said.

The union already represents theatrical performers at Disney’s Florida parks.

Barring any election challenges, the regional director of The National Labor Relations Board will certify the results within a week, the association said.

The NLRB did not immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press seeking confirmation or additional information about the vote.

The election took place on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday in Anaheim, California, after workers earlier this year filed cards to form the unit called “Magic United.”

Parade and character workers who promoted unionizing said they love helping to create a magical experience at Disneyland but grew concerned when they were asked to resume hugging visitors after returning to work during the coronavirus pandemic. They said they also suffer injuries from complex costumes and erratic schedules.

Most of the more than 35,000 workers at the Disneyland Resort, including cleaning crews, pyrotechnic specialists and security staff, are already in labor unions. The resort includes Disneyland, which is the Walt Disney Co.’s oldest theme park, as well as Disney California Adventure and the shopping and entertainment district Downtown Disney in Anaheim.

In recent years, Disney has faced allegations of not paying its Southern California workers, who face exorbitant housing costs and often commute long distances or cram into small homes, a livable wage. Parade performers and character actors earn a base pay of $24.15 an hour, up from $20 before January, with premiums for different roles.

Union membership has been on a decades-long decline in the United States, but organizations have seen growing public support in recent years during high-profile contract negotiations involving Hollywood studios and Las Vegas hotels. The NLRB, which protects workers’ right to organize, reported more than 2,500 filings for union representation during the 2023 fiscal year, which was the highest number in eight years.

The effort to organize character and parade performers in California came more than 40 years after those who play Mickey, Goofy and Donald Duck in Florida were organized by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a union traditionally known to represent transportation workers.

At that time, the Florida performers complained about filthy costumes and abuse from guests, including children who would kick the shins of Disney villains such as Captain Hook.

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Disneyland character and parade performers in California vote to join labor union