Medieval Times’ southern California castle riot has spread to another wing.
Castle sound and lighting technicians informed the company on Tuesday that they intend to unionize by filing a union election petition with the National Labor Relations Board. The cast of the castle show formed their own union last year and have been on strike since February.
In a letter stating their intentions, the technicians said they decided to unionize in part because of the way management treated them during the work stoppage of their colleagues, “in which we were wrongly accused of sabotage.” .
The workers said they plan to join the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 504, the union that represents stagehands at Disneyland. In their letter, the workers say they want Medieval Times to pay more attention to safety and raise wages to “meet industry standards.”
“We do not take this decision lightly, and this vote is the result of months of decision-making about the future of our department and the changes we seek,” the letter to management said.
The contracting department will include about a dozen employees.
Medieval Times struggles to suppress a labor uprising which began last summer when the cast, knights and stables at a New Jersey castle joined the Variety Artists Guild of America. Soon performers at the California Castle in Buena Park followed suit and joined AGVA.
So far, none of the technical workers who produce the company’s shows have asked for a union election. If the workers in California succeed, the effort could spread to the same group of workers in other castles.
“We always joked about the unions. Lots of technical tasks [in entertainment] are now unionized,” said Emily Schmidt, sound and lighting technician. “Once the strike happened, it got a lot more serious.”
The cast and knights of the castle went on strike over an “unfair labor practice” on February 11, accusing the company of unfair bargaining and trying to silence them on social media. A large part of the bargaining unit refused to work and held a column in front of the castle, asking customers not to cross it.
“We’ve always joked about unionizing…After the strike, it got a lot more serious.”
– Emily Schmidt, sound and lighting technician at Medieval Times
The technicians were not part of the union and so continued to work, but Schmidt said many of them supported the strikers in their efforts to improve their jobs. It was through the castle column that the sound and lighting technicians met the IATSE staff.
“We have our own good reasons for doing this,” Schmidt said of the technicians. “However, I don’t know if we would have had the drive to unionize if the events of the strike hadn’t happened.”
Medieval Times strongly opposed the workers’ efforts to unionize. In New Jersey, the company deployed an anti-union consultant at a cost of $3,200 a day plus expenses to discourage unionization there. Managers also held meetings at the California castle aimed at undermining union efforts.
In October, the company filed a lawsuit against AGVA for alleged trademark infringement due to the name and logo the workers adopted for their union, Medieval Times Performers United. The company later appeared to file trademark infringement complaints against the social media accounts maintained by unionized workers at the California castle. TikTok workers account was banned.
Workers filed unfair labor practice charges with the labor board, saying the company was trying to silence them.
The sound and lighting workers demanded that the company voluntarily recognize their union with IATSE—an unlikely scenario given the company’s opposition to previous efforts. The labor council is more likely to schedule a secret ballot election as long as enough workers have signed union cards.
An IATSE representative said the union had the support of the vast majority of workers in the proposed bargaining unit.
In their letter to management, the workers said they were “proud and excited to join an organization whose members are treated with dignity and respect.”