Disneyland Performers Triumph in Landmark Unionization Vote


A sense of deserved triumph echoed throughout Disneyland as the individuals whose talent breathes life into classic characters such as Mickey Mouse and Cinderella made a landmark decision. A conclusion had arrived after a three-day vote that climaxed on Saturday, resulting in these performers choosing to assemble under the umbrella of the Actors’ Equity Association labor union.

Within the realm of Disney’s Los Angeles located theme park, the actors who light up the parades and oversee the characters department decided with overwhelming support to back the union as their representative for wage negotiation. Approximately 1,700 Disney workers participated in the vote, revealing 78.7% (953 performers) in favor of the union’s involvement, with only a 21.3% (258 members) opposition.

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Disneyland, often affectionately referred to as ‘the place where dreams come true,’ granted the dreams of their Disney Cast Members who had long labored to create a union. This sentiment was appropriately echoed by Kate Shindle, President of the Actor’s Equity Association, during an address on Saturday evening.

She lauded the performers as the genuine “front lines” of the Disneyland experience. An imminent dialogue is in the cards regarding enhancing health and safety measures, economizing wages, refining working conditions, and solidifying job security before any negotiations for contract agreements commence with Walt Disney Company representatives.

Around the country, the Actors’ Equity Association already stands as the representative of stage performers in Disney’s Florida parks. With the anticipation of zero election challenges, the National Labor Relations Board’s regional director is poised to endorse these results within a week.

The vote was meticulously organized over the span of Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday in sunny Anaheim, California. Earlier this year, workers pre-emptively arranged a group called “Magic United.” The unionizing effort arose from workers’ passion to continue creating magic at Disneyland, coupled with apprehension regarding the abrupt resumption of visitor hugging amidst the pandemic and reports of physical strain due to intricate costumes and unpredictable schedules.

The Disneyland Resort, home to over 35,000 workers including cleaning crews, pyrotechnic experts, and security personnel, mostly consists of unionized team members. This entity’s resort precincts span Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, and the shopping and entertainment hotspot Downtown Disney in Anaheim.

Disney has dealt with accusations in recent years of underpaying Southern California laborers who grapple with prohibitive housing costs, prolonged commutes, or crowded living situations. Parade entertainers and character actors currently receive an hourly wage of $24.15, an increase from $20 pre-January, with further premiums allocated to specialized roles.

Union memberships across the United States have waned over the decades, but public backing seems to have found a resurge during high-stake negotiations for Hollywood studios and Las Vegas hotels in recent years. The NLRB, whose mission is to safeguard workers’ rights to mobilize, reported a significant rise in union representation cases, reaching the highest tally in eight years.

The attempt to unionize Disneyland’s character and parade performers in California emerged over four decades after the initial unionization of those who portray timeless favorites such as Mickey, Goofey and Donald Duck in Florida lead by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. During this early era, performers revealed tales of sullied costumes and guest abuse, including being an unfunny punch-bag for overzealous children enjoying their role as Captain Hook adversary.