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Peasants storm the castle: Medieval Times workers in Buena Park vote 27 to 18 to unionize

Flags fly atop a castle-like structure.
Workers at the Buena Park castle sought better pay and working conditions, more clearly defined job responsibilities and a greater voice in the workplace.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)
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The show performers and stable hands at Medieval Times in Buena Park voted 27 to 18 on Thursday to unionize, becoming the second castle in the dinner theater show chain to do so.

Workers at the Buena Park castle sought better pay and working conditions, more clearly defined job responsibilities and a greater voice in the workplace.

The unit will include knights, squires, stable hands and show cast members, including queens, Lord Cedric the lord chancellor, the lord marshal and trumpet players.

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The employees will be represented by the American Guild of Variety Artists, the same union that represents the New Jersey location, which unionized in July.

The union said it “looks forward to a cooperative relationship with Medieval Times management, knowing that fostering this kind of culture will enhance the Medieval Times experience not only for those in the show, but also for the many guests who flock to enjoy it.”

The union said the contract will ensure pay commensurate with experience level, will improve and enforce safety protocols and create a more “respectful working environment” at the castle.

Medieval Times did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Buena Park castle will be the second Medieval Times location to vote on unionizing. It’s part of a trend of nontraditional performers seeking to organize.

Nov. 10, 2022

The drive to unionize at the Buena Park castle came after the worst of the pandemic. Although the castle still closes on Mondays due to the pandemic’s effect on staffing levels, it can run multiple shows a day, particularly during weekends and the show’s busy holiday season.

Knights fight with real (if blunted) titanium weapons and can sometimes get cut or otherwise injured. They throw themselves off horses at 25 miles per hour, and they do it for about $19 to $29 an hour, depending on experience level, said Erin Zapcic, who plays Queen Doña Maria Isabella and is one of the union organizers.

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To be a knight, one must start as a squire making “essentially minimum wage,” Zapcic said.

Stable hands and trumpet players can make $16 an hour.

With the exception of knights and stable hands, Medieval Times show cast performers are largely part-time, meaning they often take jobs at nearby Knott’s Berry Farm, Disneyland or the Pirates Dinner Adventure show down the street.

The American Guild of Variety Artists already represents some performers at Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood.

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