Workers at Medieval Times have formed the dinner-theater chain’s first labor union, bringing collective bargaining to a castle in northern New Jersey.
The knights, squires, show cast and stablehands at the Lyndhurst location voted 26 to 11 in favor of joining the American Guild of Variety Artists following a ballot count June i5, according to the union. The National Labor Relations Board, which oversaw the election, has not yet certified the results.
Medieval Times workers in New Jersey have been organizing to improve their pay and working conditions, with a particular focus on safety. The Middle Ages-themed shows involve jousting on horseback and other dangerous stunts, all in front of an unpredictable and sometimes rowdy crowd.
Medieval Times opposed the organizing effort. The company hired a union-avoidance consultant who held meetings at the castle with employees at a cost of $3,200 per day, plus expenses.
The union in Lyndhurst would include about 40 workers, most of them performing in the show or working in the stables, where the castle keeps about two dozen horses. The American Guild of Variety Artists represents workers in other theaters and touring shows, including the Rockettes and performers at Disneyland.
Medieval Times workers often put on two or three two-hour shows in a day and must regularly rehearse to stay safe. Knights mock-fight in heavy gear, smash lances as they ride and jump from horseback, while stablehands and squires handle horses that can get excited by the crowds. The queen and other actors run the show and often have to keep the crowd in check while staying in character.