Hear ye, hear ye: Medieval Times cast forms its first-ever union in NJ

Hear ye, hear ye: Medieval Times cast forms its first-ever union in NJ

The royal performers of Medieval Times in Lyndhurst, New Jersey overwhelmingly voted to unionize.

In a 26 to 11 vote, workers on Friday agreed to join the American Guild of Variety Artists to bargain for higher wages and safer working conditions in what would be the dinner theater chain’s first union. The National Labor Relations Board and union organizers both confirmed the vote to Gothamist.

“We are excited to have won our union and grateful for the solidarity shown by our coworkers,” Medieval Times Performers United said in an emailed statement.

The group of 42 employees said it would, as a union, “bargain a strong first contract.”

“We look forward to working with management to create a fairer, safer, and more enjoyable Medieval Times,” it said. “Together, we will build a workplace that allows us to thrive while doing the work we love.”

The union will represent those who play knights, squires, trumpeters and other performers. The stable hands who care for the show’s horses will also be in the bargaining unit. Members of the waiting staff are not set to be part of the union.

Employees told Gothamist they wanted to be compensated fairly for the live stunt work they perform. Knights, who are the show’s main attraction, start at minimum wage and work years to earn $20 an hour, workers said.

There are also concerns about the cast’s safety. Employees said audience members, who enjoy the show wearing paper crowns while feasting and drinking, often grab the performers. Guests sometimes scare the live animals by banging their plates and bowls, the employees said.

“We’re here for the spectacle without considering the person behind it,” Zaire Wood, 32, a knight at Medieval Times, previously told Gothamist. “Regardless of how out of control the customers may get, we still expect our job to sort it out with the appropriate amount of response.”

Medieval Times, which operates nine other locations in the United States and Canada, has not responded to multiple emailed requests and a phone message seeking comment this week. The company also hasn’t yet returned an emailed message sent Friday.

The move to form a new union is happening amid resurgence of labor organizing nationally and in the state. Local Starbucks locations and cannabis stores have also recently unionized in New Jersey, researchers say. New Jersey is one of the most heavily unionized states in the nation.

The parties have one week to file objections, according to the National Labor Relations Board. If no objections are filed, the results will be certified and the parties must begin bargaining in good faith, it said.

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