Disneyland character, parade performers asked to join union

February 13, 2024, 8:43 PM · Actors' Equity Association, the labor union that represents Broadway performers and other stage actors across the United States, has launched a new organizing campaign at Disneyland.

Equity has launched a website - MagicUnited.org - for the organizing effort. About 1,700 cast members, who primarily work as performers in parades and as characters around the resort, are being asked to sign union cards. If enough employees sign, the National Labor Relations Board will conduct an election to certify the union. (Disneyland could opt to voluntarily recognize the union without an NLRB election, but that businesses rarely do that.)

Unions represent nearly all the other cast members at Disneyland, including the Entertainment performers who work stage show. They are represented by the American Guild of Variety Artists, a sister union of the Actors Equity Association. By choosing to join Equity, Disneyland character and parade performers would be able to bargain collectively with Disney management over pay and working conditions.

Equity currently represents Entertainment cast members at the Walt Disney World Resort, and Magic United includes a page that compares the pay and working conditions for non-union cast at Disneyland with the Equity-represented cast at Walt Disney World. Equity also is offering to waive its initiation fee for Disneyland cast members as part of this organizing effort.

Organizers say that their negotiating priorities would be higher pay, better working conditions, a reliable scheduling system, and creating a guaranteed open line of communication for employees to management.

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Replies (4)

February 14, 2024 at 12:37 AM

I worked at Disney for many years dealing with both equity and non equity performers and the only thing I can really say is that if the characters and parade dancers become equity, expect massive cuts across the board in regards to entertainment and character offerings. It has always been the general understanding that equity are "real actors" and the characters and stuff were kids that auditioned without having a full repertoire of professional training. Being in compliance with the equity agreements would probably more than double the cost of those performers. Random side note: equity's demands, and Disney not agreeing to them, kept many attractions around WDW closed for a long period of time after the parks re-opened during covid.

I'm not anti union or anything i'm just stating the facts as I have personal experience with them.

February 14, 2024 at 8:52 AM

I agree the_man4. Though I'm not a massive fan of unions, I do understand the concept of "strength in numbers" and the role unions have played to improve working conditions for everyone. While I see some similarities in the type of work that parade and character performers do and what traditional actors and theatrical performers do, I think this move has a greater risk of backfiring on Equity than it does to further strengthen the union. I highly doubt any theme park or entertainment company would be willing to view these very different employees under the same contract as more traditionally trained theatrical employees.

If I was an Equity member working at Disneyland, I might be excited to have additional leverage against Disney with more members, but at the same time, I would be worried that the company would view parade and character performers as lower-skilled labor and minimize the skill and talent gap between those employees and theatrical performers.

I would be curious to see who initiated this effort - was it leadership, or was it general sentiments within rank and file membership, and just how many current Equity members are on board with this movement.

February 14, 2024 at 9:18 AM

the_man4: "... the characters and stuff were kids that auditioned without having a full repertoire of professional training".

Me: So like, Iman Vellani from Ms. Marvel? I believe characters have good reason to be represented by a union as they carry great risk. Physical contact with guests. Standards for costume/equipment design. Workers' comp issues.

February 14, 2024 at 12:26 PM

If we don’t all hang together we’ll all hang separately
-Jim Hacker

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