Medieval Times employees set to vote on unionizing – Orange County Register

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The National Labor Relations Board has determined that workers at Medieval Times will maintain one bargaining unit as they move toward a union vote with the American Guild of Variety Artists.

The decision, delivered Friday, Nov. 4, comes after stable hands and others at the Buena Park dinner theater sought to withdraw from the bargaining unit last month. The group had charged AGVA with using deceptive tactics to get union cards signed.

They also wanted to evaluate the impact of the guild’s victory earlier this year at Medieval Times’ Lyndhurst, N.J. location before moving forward with unionizing.

“We’ve missed the opportunity to see what happens with that location so we can better understand the process and see what we would get out of it,” stable hand Michelle Green said last month.

The NLRB’s decision means the bargaining unit will consist of all full- and part-time employees within the knights, squires, show cast and stables departments. A vote is set for Thursday, Nov. 10 at the Buena Park location.

Attorney Brandon Shemtob, who represented Medieval Times in hearings with the NLRB, could not be reached for comment Friday.

The Medieval Times’ organizing committee said it was “looking forward to casting our ballots for a fairer, safer and more equitable workplace.”

The National Labor Relations Board’s decision means the bargaining unit will consist of all full- and part-time employees within the knights, squires, show cast and stables departments. A vote is set for Thursday, Nov. 10 at the Buena Park castle.

Susanne Doris, AGVA’s executive secretary-treasurer, said the Buena Park employees would benefit from unionization.

“A lot of employees are making $14 an hour, and they work them just short of 30 hours so they don’t qualify for health insurance,” Doris said recently. “They’re saying they can’t make a living on the wages they’re being paid.”

She declined to say what kind of wage increase AGVA might ask for if the workers unionize.

Zachary Snyder, who has been employed as a knight at the Buena Park castle for more than 14 years, isn’t happy with the NLRB’s decision.

“I think it’s a mistake,” the 34-year-old Norco resident said. “It will kill any forward momentum we might have in dealing directly with the company ourselves.”

Snyder said unionization would also make it harder to recruit new stable hands, as they are some of the lower-paid employees at Medieval Times and would have to pay $795 a year in union dues.

Performers at the Buena Park castle have also expressed safety concerns.

Erin Zapcic, who portrays a queen in the shows, said the theater has been operating with limited staff since it reopened in June 2021 after a COVID-19 shutdown — a situation that has left the door open for potential injuries.

“We do 16 shows a week, so the knights don’t have time to properly rest,” the 39-year-old Los Angeles resident said. “And when we’re short on stable hands they don’t have time to do all of the safety checks that are needed, like ensuring that the saddles are tight.”

Zapcic fell from her horse last year just as she entered the tunnel that brought her onstage. Employees are doing their jobs, she said. But with staffing so short, mishaps are bound to happen.

Jake Bowman, who is also a knight at the Buena Park castle, has weathered two injuries.

The most recent one occurred in June when an opponent’s sword came down and fractured his thumb. Bowman said he experienced a worse injury during his previous tenure at Medieval Times in Dallas when he was kicked in the back by a horse and suffered a hairline fracture to the spine in his lower back.

Zapcic said unionization talk is brewing at other Medieval Times locations.

“We are officially the only location that’s going through this process right now … but we are aware of interest at other castles,” she said. “It’s tough to say because collecting signatures is a very secretive process. We can’t comment on that.”

Dallas-based Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament operates a total of 10 Medieval Times dinner theaters in Buena Park, Lyndhurst, N.J., Dallas, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Myrtle Beach, Orlando, Scottsdale and Toronto.

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