Buena Parks Medieval Times is a castle divided by union disillusionment – Orange County Register
Medieval Times is a divided castle.
In July most of the grooms, knights, squires and show performers at the Buena Park Dinner Theater signed tickets expressing their interest in association with the American Guild of Variety Artists.
But many have since backed down, citing reports of fraudulent tactics used by AGVA to sign union cards. They also claim that the union’s charter and bylaws are not clear.
The workers have asked to be removed from the bargaining unit, but AGVA claims it ignored the request.
The castle’s seven grooms were the first employees to want to be expelled. When their request was sent to Susanne K. Doris, AGVA’s executive secretary and treasurer, she ignored them, they said.
In an interview on Wednesday October 12, Doris said that was not the case.
“We received a form letter and emailed our reply back the same day,” she said. “I said we had received the letter and asked for the email addresses of the staff who did not wish to be included, but received no response.”
Workers said they received Doris’ request for the email addresses.
The clerks contacted Medieval Times’ attorney, who also requested that the grooms be removed from the bargaining unit. At an Aug. 15-16 hearing before the National Labor Relations Board, AGVA again advocated including the grooms.
After weeks of research and meetings with AGVA and Medieval Times, 25 of the 47 members of Medieval Times’ bargaining unit — including stablehands, knights, squires and show performers — signed a petition urging AGVA to withdraw its petition to the NLRB after a union election.
Several members of the AGVA administration received the signed petition, and Doris responded three days later.
“The document you sent me is of questionable authenticity and will not interfere with the fundamental right of Medieval (Times) employees to unionize,” she wrote. “We are awaiting a decision from the NLRB on the details of the upcoming election.”
The workers’ petition cites an NRLB rule that allows workers to withdraw from a bargaining unit before a union election is held.
“The fact that the parties have expended resources, even in anticipation of a planned election, is no basis for not agreeing to a withdrawal request even shortly before the election,” the provision reads.
Michelle Green, who has worked as a stable hand at Castle Buena Park for nearly a year and earns $16.25 an hour, said the union trial has been postponed so fast that the workers didn’t have time to do it Evaluate the impact of AGVA’s victory earlier this year at the Medieval Times location in Lyndhurst, NJ. There, employees voted 26 to 11 for union membership.
“We missed an opportunity to see what’s happening with this site so we can better understand the process and see what we get out of it,” said the 26-year-old Irvine resident. “We need more information to decide if it would be beneficial for us.”
Marten Borg, who portrays a knight at the Buena Park location, agreed.
“I always felt we should wait and see what happens in New Jersey,” he said. “The other thing is that we asked for a copy of their constitution and by-laws, but we never saw them. That sends a red flag for me.”
Dallas-based Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament operates a total of 10 Medieval Times Dinner Theaters with additional locations in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Myrtle Beach, Orlando, Scottsdale and Toronto.
Workers at these sites have not said they intend to join a union.
Doris said Buena Park employees could benefit from unionization.
“A lot of them make $14 an hour and work close to 30 hours, so they don’t qualify for health insurance,” she said. “They say they can’t live off the wages they get.”
Workers’ drive to unionize was fueled by wage and safety concerns. Doris did not discuss what kind of wage increase AGVA might demand if workers unionize.
Green said AGVA’s union dues would be around $750 a year.
Erin Zapcic, who portrays a queen at Castle Buena Park, said the theater has operated with limited staff since reopening in June 2021 following a COVID-19 shutdown — a situation that has left the door open to potential injuries.
“We play 16 shows a week, so the Knights don’t have time to really rest,” the 39-year-old Los Angeles resident said recently. “And when we’re short of stablehands, they don’t have time to do all the necessary safety checks, like making sure the saddles are tight.”
Julia McCurdie, who also plays a queen on Medieval Times, agreed.
“I also work at Disneyland and I see stunt performers with no horsemanship making $33-$35 an hour doing five-minute stunt shows,” she said. “Now our knights do two-hour shows two or three times a day and throw themselves off moving horses. It’s alarming.”
Jake Bowman, who plays the role of a swashbuckling knight at Castle Buena Park, broke his thumb in June and suffered a hairline fracture of his lower back spine while previously working for another Medieval Times in Dallas. He earns $18.50 an hour.
Castle Buena Park workers say they are working with Medieval Times and want to take six months to see how things are going in New Jersey before committing.
They also cited the NLRB’s “Dual Card” doctrine, which states that an employee “can revoke any union authorization card that you sign simply by signing a letter, card, petition, or other document stating: that you don’t support the union or you support another union.”
The doctrine goes on to say that if a worker signs two documents containing conflicting statements of support for the union, “neither document is valid evidence of the worker’s representation preference.”
The NLRB has not made a decision on the official members of the Buena Park bargaining unit, nor has an election date been set.
“I know the initial mindset was to strike while the iron is hot, but that sacrifices the caution aspect,” Green said. “We’re starting to get a sense of what it’s like in New Jersey and it’s progressing very slowly. They’ve had a few meetings…but it doesn’t seem like they’ve accomplished much.”
https://www.ocregister.com/2022/10/12/buena-parks-medieval-times-is-a-castle-divided-by-union-disillusion/ Buena Parks Medieval Times is a castle divided by union disillusionment – Orange County Register