Disneyland Character Performers Move to Unionize Via Actors' Equity | Playbill

Industry News Disneyland Character Performers Move to Unionize Via Actors' Equity

The professional actor and stage manager union already represents performers in stage shows at Disney World.

Konstantin Yolshin / Shutterstock

California's Disneyland character performers have moved to unionize via Actors' Equity, the theatrical union that represents professional actors and stage managers on Broadway and beyond.

A collection of Cast Members (the Disney parks' term for employees) has formed a group called Magic United that is distributing union authorization cards to 1,700 employees in hopes that Disneyland will voluntarily recognize the group's unionization. Should they not achieve that recognition, the group would have to file a petition with the National Labor Relations Board in anticipation of an election to make the unionization official.

If successful, this would not be the first time Actors' Equity has counted Disney Parks employees among its membership. The union already represents performers in stage shows at Florida's Disney World, a group that unionized in 1990. It would, however, be the first time character performers—which give park goers a chance to interact and get photos with various characters from Disney film and TV properties—unionized with Equity. Their counterparts in Florida's Disney World are currently unionized via Teamsters Local 385. Adding further complexity to Disney's union situations, performers in stage shows at the Disneyland park in California are unionized via the American Guild of Variety Artists, a group that represents performers in various variety entertainments, including dancers in The Radio City Rockettes.

According to Magic United's website, organizers hope the unionization will help promote Cast Member safety, appropriate compensation, improved communication, and fair scheduling and job security.

“Disneyland is a very special place, where Cast Members create magic that attracts millions of guests every year," says Equity President Kate Shindle in a statement. "Disney workers are openly and powerfully invested in and loyal to the Walt Disney Company and its values, so it's reasonable for them to expect ‘the happiest place on earth’ to pay them fairly and prioritize their health and safety. Unionizing is the collective pathway to ensuring that the magic makers share not only in the happiness, but in the $9.13 billion in quarterly 'experience' revenue that Disney announced to its shareholders on February 7. Equity already represents hundreds of performers at Walt Disney World in Orlando, and we have a long and successful bargaining relationship with Disney. We look forward to extending that work to include these Cast Members in Anaheim and applaud them for their incredible work on the campaign thus far.”

“As the Entertainment Cast Members at the Disneyland Resort, it is time for us to come together as a union, to use our collective power to ensure that the park is a safer, more sustainable place to build careers and share magic with Guests from all over the world," adds a statement from Magic United.

“We chose Actors' Equity Association as our union because we’ve seen how well they work with Disney in Florida, on Broadway and on tour. Our Walt Disney World colleagues exemplify how you can be pro-Disney and pro-union at the same time. Furthermore, the vast majority of our park colleagues here in Anaheim already have union representation. It’s a win/win: when we can speak with a collective voice, we can have a clearer, more productive conversation with our employer. Ultimately this will result in a better experience for all—Cast Members, managers, and more importantly, our Guests.

“We find inspiration in Disney every day, in the stories that we get to tell. Whether we are meeting Guests up close or dazzling them with a parade, we know we are making lifelong memories. And now, we’re laying the groundwork for the future of entertainment employment at the Disneyland Resort. With Magic United, we can work together with each other and with Disney leadership to ensure our talents remain central to the Disneyland experience for generations to come. We are the Magic! We are the union!”

Disney has not yet responded officially to the unionization move.

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