Disneyland Workers Form Union In Landslide Election Win

From now on, Mickey Mouse will be carrying a union card in California. 

Performers at Disneyland theme park in Anaheim voted overwhelmingly in favor of unionizing in an election this week, the National Labor Relations Board announced Sunday. They will be members of the Actors’ Equity Association, the same union that represents performers and stage managers at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

The election at the theme park involved more than 1,700 employees in the character and parade departments. The vote count was 953 in favor of unionizing and 258 against it, according to a board spokesperson.

Actors’ Equity said in a statement that those workers had been an “exception” among the heavily unionized workforce at Disneyland “until now.”

“This is an incredible victory, and we appreciate all the support over the past several weeks,” Kate Shindle, the union’s president, said in a statement. “These cast members are both pro-union and pro-Disney, and they’re looking forward to meeting with their employer across the bargaining table.” 

Disney would have a week to file any challenges to the election results before the labor board certifies them as official.

“While voting is complete, there are still steps in the process prior to the election being certified, so it is premature for the company to comment on the results,” the company said in a statement. “Whatever the outcome, we respect that our cast members had the opportunity to have their voices heard.”

The cast members who dress up as Disney characters said they wanted higher pay, fairer scheduling and strong safety practices in the park.
The cast members who dress up as Disney characters said they wanted higher pay, fairer scheduling and strong safety practices in the park. via Associated Press

The new union includes workers who dress and act as Disney characters in shows, restaurants and throughout the park, as well as those who train them. Employees leading the union effort took on the name “Magic United” and called for higher pay, fairer scheduling and stronger safety practices on the job.

When the union filed for an election in April, it said the goal was “to make ‘the happiest place on Earth’ a little happier.” 

Magic doesn’t pay our rent,” the group said. “We must be able to live comfortably in the community where we work.”

Actors’ Equity is traditionally a union for stage actors and managers but has branched out into new areas in recent years. The group successfully organized the Star Garden Topless Dive Bar in North Hollywood last year, making it the only unionized strip club in the U.S. at the time. The union also organized astronomical tour guides at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. 

The vote at Disney wasn’t the only big union election held this week. Workers at Mercedes-Benz in Alabama voted 2,045 to 2,642 against joining the United Auto Workers union, a setback for the group as it tries to organize foreign-owned auto plants in the South.

This story has been updated with comment from Disney.