Following a series of unsuccessful wage negotiations, the unionized workers at a California Medieval Times Dinner Theater have gone on strike.
By Walter S. Brackett III
The workers at the Medieval Times in Buena Park, CA voted to unionize in November 2022, a few months after workers the chain’s New Jersey location had done so. An affiliate of the American Guild of Variety Artists, the California union workers voted to unionize so they could use collective bargaining to increase wages and improve working conditions during contract negotiations.
The management of Medieval Times LLC has been fighting to prevent its employees from joining a union, going so far as to sue the union in October 2022 for copyright infringement. Lawyers for the chain of medieval-themed dinner theaters claim that the union’s use of the words “Medieval Times” in its name and the use of the swords in its logo are confusing to consumers and violate its copyright.
The union called the lawsuit “frivolous”, claiming it was “a grotesque attempt to retaliate against workers for exercising their legal right to form a union and bargain collectively.”
Using a company’s name in the title and logo of a union formed by a company’s workers is a fairly common practice. For example, the union of Amazon employees is called the Amazon Labor Union and uses a shipping box in its logo. Likewise, the union of Starbucks employees is called the Starbucks Workers United and its green and white logo has some similarity to the Starbucks logo.
After encountering the picket line of striking workers during the first few days of the strike in February 2023, a number of Dinner Theater attendees requested refunds. Moreover, many patrons who attended the performances expressed support for the striking workers.
Medieval Times LLC has also reportedly flown performers in from its other locations to keep the theater open and break the strike.
At the Buena Park, CA location, knights who perform dangerous stunts throughout multiple shows at the Dinner Theater each night make as little as $18.50 per hour, far below the living wage in Orange County (approximately $24 per hour, according to MIT Economics Department).
Apprentice Knight Johnnie Ross IV (above) also hopes the union can raise hazard pay for those who work with live animals, as they often sustain injuries because of them.
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To read about the workers' unionization efforts, check out our article of July 2022.