Workers at the Medieval Times re-enactment venue voted on Friday to form a union, marking one of the last leisure and hospitality businesses to organize amid a labor swell stemming from the two-year coronavirus pandemic.
Royal performers at the Lyndhurst venue voted 24 to 11 to form a union – a first for the dinner theater chain – to win higher wages and safer working conditions, according to an announcement on Friday.
Friday’s decision affects actors, jesters, trumpeters, stunt performers and steady hands, but not servers, according to the announcement from Medieval Times Performers United, which will join the national union American Guild of Variety Artists.
“We will use our collective voice to negotiate a strong first contract,” read a Friday statement from this latest chapter of the union. “We look forward to working with management to create a fairer, safer and more enjoyable medieval time. Together, we will build a workplace that allows us to thrive while doing the work we love.
Union officials have complained that its future members are suffering from staff shortages resulting from coronavirus reopenings, as well as security concerns and low wages. Representatives for the Texas-based company, which has nine other locations outside of Lyndhurst, could not immediately be reached for comment.
“Let’s be clear on what these employees have ‘earned’ today,” Medieval Times CEO Perico Montaner wrote to employees, according to news outlet Gothamist. “They’ve ‘earned’ the privilege of a third party sitting in front of the business and asking for things. The law is very clear, a company must negotiate in good faith – which we will – but a company is not bound to accept a proposal that it does not believe is in the best interest of the company – which we won’t.”
Montaner added: “Collective bargaining is an uncertain process. Half of all new unions never get a first contract. There is no time limit for negotiations. see their contract?
Hotels, restaurants, theme parks and other parts of the leisure and hospitality industry have struggled to fill positions over the past two years as COVID-19 business restrictions rise and fall and that the nation was riding a roller coaster of new variants and the fear of a recession.
Workers at many of these establishments, such as Starbucks and Amazon, have in turn chosen to form unions. The union that Medieval Times workers join has members at Radio City in Manhattan and Universal Studios Hollywood in California.
“The low wages, irregular hours and difficult work environments that are common in the hospitality industry have contributed to the shortage of workers ready to fill these positions,” said Todd Vachon, professor at Rutgers University and director of the School’s Labor Education Action Research Network. which partners with labor rights groups, said in March.