Disneyland’s Characters and Parade Performers Successfully Unionize

Disneyland’s Characters and Parade Performers Successfully Unionize

Unionization was in full force throughout the entertainment industry in 2023, particularly over at Disney. VFX artists across several in-house teams—including those for the MCU and the Avatar franchise—successfully unionized, a trend that’s now continuing in the corporation’s theme park business.

On late Saturday night, an election wrapped for Disneyland resort actors to be represented by the Actors’ Equity Association. Out of the 1,700 employees voting, Equity needed half to be successful, but in what was called a “landslide victory,” the threshold was exceeded with 79% of voters in favor of the union. (For hard numbers, that’s 953 in favor v 258 against.) So long as no challenges crop up, the regional director of the NLRB will have the results certified within a week.

Equity already represents performers and stage managers for Walt Disney World’s Orlando resort, along with Disney Theatricals on Broadway and other national tours. While most of the Resort workforce has been unionized for years, the Characters and Parades departments were the exception prior to this vote. Their efforts were born out of performers sharing their concerns about health and safety during the early days of the pandemic, along with base wages not matching the pricey cost of living in Southern California. To further highlight what they’re fighting for, performers put out videos about their poor conditions, such as wearing uncomfortable costumes and inflexible work policies, earlier in the week.

Per Equity president Kate Shindle, the first point of order for the workers group, known as Magic United, is to improve health and safety protocols, along with wages, bonuses, and working conditions. “These workers are on the front lines of the Guest experience,” she said. “They’re the human beings who create lifelong memories when your kids hug a character, or when your family watches a parade roll by the castle. […] We’re excited about the next phase, [and] will meet with representatives of the Walt Disney Company to negotiate those priorities into a first contract.”

“This is an incredible victory, and we appreciate all the support over the past several weeks,” she continued. “These Cast Members are both pro-union and pro-Disney, and they’re looking forward to meeting with their employer across the bargaining table in a good faith effort to make both the work experience and the Guest experience better. […] 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.”

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