Disneyland Performers Vote to Unionize, Will Negotiate Better Conditions With Walt Disney Company

Disneyland Resort Performers Vote to Unionize

An election held on Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday concluded with a wide margin for unionization of roughly 1,700 workers who bring Disney characters to life.

The Actors' Equity Association (AEA) labor union announced that cast members from the parades and characters departments at Disneyland in California voted by an overwhelming majority to make the union their bargaining agent. The ballot tally showed that approximately 78.7% of the votes were in favor of the union, with 21.3% opposed.

The AEA now expects to engage in negotiations with the Walt Disney Company on behalf of the newly unionized workers, to improve their wages, benefits, and working conditions.

Union Representation for Character Performers

The election was held pursuant to a petition filed earlier this year in which the workers voted to form a unit called "Magic United."

FEAstablished in 1919, the AEA is a US labor union that represents theatrical actors and stage managers. It is the largest union representing actors in the United States. The AEA is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of labor unions in the US.

The Disney performers who joined "Magic United" expressed their love for their role in creating the magical Disney experience, but also highlighted concerns about safety, health, and working conditions, including:

  • Resuming hugging visitors after the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Safety hazards due to complex costumes and repetitive injuries
  • Erratic scheduling and lack of job security

Unionizing workers hope to negotiate with Disney to improve these areas and create more security and stability for their members.

Historical Context

This unionization effort follows a recent trend of high-profile unionization drives in the US entertainment and hospitality industries, including among workers at hotels in Las Vegas and among Hollywood studios.

Union membership has been on a decades-long decline in the US, but organizations have seen growing public support and successful campaigns in recent years.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal agency that oversees union elections, reported more than 2,500 filings for union representation during the 2023 fiscal year, which was the highest number in eight years.

Walt Disney Company History with Unionization

This vote comes more than 40 years after the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represented the performers who play Mickey Mouse, Goofy, and Donald Duck in Florida.

At that time, performers complained about filthy costumes, and abuse from guests, including children kicking the shins of Disney villains such as Captain Hook.

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