Disneyland characters and parade performers in California vote to join union | DC News Now

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Disneyland artists who help bring Mickey Mouse, Cinderella and other beloved characters to life at the Southern California resort have decided to unionize after a three-day vote that ended Saturday.

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

An association website that tracks voting among cast members indicated approval by 78.7% (953 votes) in favor and 21.3% (258 votes) against.

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

Shindle called workers the “front line” of the Disneyland guest experience. The association and cast members will discuss improvements in health and safety, wages, benefits, working conditions and job security before meeting with representatives from the Walt Disney Company to negotiate staff priorities in a contract, he said.

The union already represents theater artists at Disney parks in Florida.

Barring 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 Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday in Anaheim, California, after workers earlier this year submitted cards to form the unit called “Magic United.”

Parade and character workers who pushed for unionization said they love helping create a magical experience at Disneyland, but worried when they were asked to hug guests again after returning to work during the coronavirus pandemic. They said they also suffer injuries due to complex costumes and erratic schedules.

Most of the Disneyland Resort’s more than 35,000 workers, including cleaning crews, pyrotechnics specialists and security personnel, are already union members. The complex includes Disneyland, which is Walt Disney Co.’s oldest theme park, as well as Disney California Adventure and the Downtown Disney shopping and entertainment district in Anaheim.

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

Union membership has been declining for decades 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 requests for union representation during fiscal year 2023, 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 perform Mickey, Goofy and Donald Duck in Florida were organized by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a union traditionally known for representing to transportation workers.

At the time, Florida performers complained about dirty costumes and abuse from guests, including children kicking the shins of Disney villains like Captain Hook.