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Character Workers Join Actors’ Equity

Character Workers Join Actors’ Equity

Another union is coming to Disneyland.

On Saturday, a majority of the amusement park’s character workers voted to unionize with Actors’ Equity Association in a National Labor Relations Board vote, ushering more employees at Disneyland into the union fold. Nine hundred and fifty-three workers voted “yes” to join Equity, while 258 voted “no.” The parties now have several days to file any objections, and if none are submitted, the results will be certified.

The vote, which took place between Wednesday and Saturday, sought to determine whether some 1,700 workers who play characters at the park and who cheer and dance at parades, as well as the staffers who facilitate interactions between park patrons and characters and train these performers, would join Equity. The union — best known for representing Broadway actors and stage managers — already bargains on behalf of performers in shows at Walt Disney World and in Disney Theatricals on Broadway and on national tours. The character workers effort is their first foray into Disneyland.

Most workers at Disneyland are already unionized (represented by groups including the Service Employees International Union, the Teamsters, the American Guild of Variety Artists and others), but character workers have long been one of the few groups that aren’t represented by a labor group.

Kate Shindle, the president of Equity, previously told The Hollywood Reporter that the organizing drive began as workers started to have workplace concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic, like interacting with park visitors after a period of social distancing. “There are things that have been explained to me that are issues or concerns at Disneyland that sound very familiar,” Shindle told THR. “Making sure that costumes are cleaned between the time one person takes them off and another person puts them on is something we deal with all over the place in traditional brick and mortar theaters and outdoor theaters.”

In addition to addressing safety concerns, organizers are also seeking to raise wages, adjust scheduling policies and have easier access to health insurance in a union contract. (Disneyland workers already receive annual pay raises and healthcare benefits if they are full-time employees.)

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The workers first went public with their organization effort in February. After Disney Resort Entertainment declined to voluntarily recognize the group, workers filed a petition for a union election with the NLRB on April 17.

THR has reached out to Disney for comment.

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