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Medieval Times performers seek to unionize – Orange County Register

Jake Bowman, like most of his fellow performers, loves his job.

But playing the part of a swashbuckling knight at Buena Park’s Medieval Times dinner theater comes with risks. And in his case… $18.50 an hour.

“I fractured my thumb last month,” the 33-year-old Anaheim resident said. “I had a sword in both hands and my opponent’s sword slammed into my thumb joint. I couldn’t clench my fist for a month.

It was not the first incident. During his previous tenure at the Medieval Times in Dallas, he was kicked in the back by a horse and suffered a spinal hairline fracture in his lower back. Such are the risks of the live performance.

In order to address security concerns and obtain higher salaries, the artists at Buena Park Castle seek to unionize.

On Friday, the 50 Knights, Queens, Squires, Cavaliers and Squires of the place submitted a petition for a union election to the National Labor Relations Board which calls for a vote on whether to join the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA).

The move follows a labor victory at the Lyndhurst, NJ location of the Medieival Times, where workers voted 26 to 11 securing AGVA membership. The Dallas-based company operates a total of 10 Medieval Times restaurant theaters, with additional locations in Dallas, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Myrtle Beach, Orlando, Scottsdale and Toronto.

Management representatives for Medieval Times could not be reached for comment on Friday.

The theater has been operating with limited staff since reopening in June 2021 after a COVID-19 shutdown, an artist said, and it has left the door open to potential injuries. (File photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Erin Zapcic, who plays a queen at Buena Park Castle, said employees collected signatures with a supermajority expressing support for a union. The performers informed management of their intention to unionize but received no response, so they filed the petition.

His main concerns revolve around security.

The theater has been operating with limited staff since reopening in June 2021 after a COVID-19 shutdown, Zapcic said, and it has left the door open to potential injuries.

“We do 16 shows a week, so the Knights don’t have time to rest properly,” the 39-year-old Los Angeles resident said. “And when we’re short on steady hands, they don’t have time to do all the necessary safety checks, like making sure the saddles are tight.”

Zapcic fell off her horse last year just as she entered the tunnel that brought her to the stage.

“I was very lucky because I just bruised my thigh, but I had to be off the horse for a few weeks and wasn’t allowed to ride,” he said. she declared.

Money is another issue.

Medieval Times employees just got a $1 an hour raise, but many are still getting by, according to Susanne Doris, secretary-treasurer at AGVA’s national office.

“We just want them to be paid for the skills they have,” she said. “Some employees told us they couldn’t afford to live on their own with the money they earned, and others said they couldn’t afford a car to get around. It’s essential.

Zapcic makes $21.50 an hour, but said that’s far less than the $30-35 an hour similar performers earn at Universal Studios and other southern theme parks. California.

Julia McCurdie, who also plays a queen in Medieval Times, agreed.

“I also work at Disneyland and I see stunt people there who have no horse riding skills making $33 to $35 an hour doing five-minute stunts. Meanwhile, our Knights put on two-hour shows two to three times a day and throw themselves off moving horses.

McCurdie said the new recruits, called squires, earned near minimum wage.

“I saw a lot of knights being taken away in an ambulance,” she said. “It’s a great place to work and we all really like our jobs, but I feel like they get by paying low wages. These people could go to work at In-N-Out and earn $25 without hurting their bodies.

Bowman said management has been vague about the organizing drive.

“They sent someone from head office to talk to us about what a union does and encouraged us to make the best decision for ourselves,” he said. “But it was a bit awkward because we had already made our decision.”

Medieval Times performers and management have several meetings scheduled for next week, Bowmand said, and sessions are expected to continue until a union vote is passed.

“There’s no doubt that we’re underpaid,” he said. “I don’t expect to get what the people at Disney get because it’s a big company. But we have a realistic expectation of salaries that would allow some of our guys to pay their rent.

John Smith

The author John Smith