Jake Bowman broke his thumb last month while performing live at the Medieval Times in Buena Park, California. The 33-year-old knight broke a bone while skillfully parrying an opponent’s sword. He continued to fight.
He could not make a fist with his left hand for almost four weeks. But because he is right-handed, the injury did not affect his ability to sign a union ticket.
Bowman’s castle now second As it became known to HuffPost, the center of the Medieval Times in the United States is going to unionize. Workers petitioned for union elections at the National Labor Relations Board on Friday afternoon, calling for a vote among 50 château, squires, show performers and grooms on whether to join a union. American Guild of Entertainers.
The petition is on the way resounding union victory at the company’s castle in Lyndhurst, New Jersey, last week, where AGVA won 26-11, easily overcoming the company’s anti-union campaign. The desire of Californian workers to follow their example suggests that all is not well in the kingdom.
“You don’t have to quit the job you love because you can’t afford it anymore.”
– Erin Zapcic, medieval actress who played the queen.
When workers in Buena Vista saw what their relatives in Jersey were doing, they collected signatures from the castle’s “overwhelming majority” in just five days, according to Bowman and others in the organization.
“As cool as it is that I wake up every day and pretend to be a knight, it’s an incredibly dangerous job,” Bowman explained. “I really want to get the message across: what we are doing now is unsafe and unhealthy. And I love this job.”
Like their counterparts on the other side of the coast, California workers say. low wages and poor staffing led to an alarming level of exhaustion. They named Buena Park the busiest and most profitable of the 10 castles in North America compiled by the Medieval Times (the Texas-based company is private). Bowman has said that he was not fully prepared for his rapid rise from squire to knight—shifting into a more risky stuntman-like role—which he suspects was due to his castle being understaffed.
“Broadway does eight shows a week, and we do 16,” said Erin Zapcic, one of the castle’s queens. “You have people who work on every show. They are tired. The horses are tired. … Even professional athletes have an off-season. We don’t have an off-season.”
Zapcic fell off her horse and bruised her hip while performing in October and was unable to participate in the show’s procession for several weeks. She said she usually only does two or three shows a week and her biggest concern is for her co-stars, who are constantly performing in very physical roles.
She believes that if more people are hired for training, everyone will have a better quality of life and a safer workplace than big paychecks. A trained actress, Zapcic said she makes about $21 an hour at the castle after more than a decade with the company. That kind of money won’t get you far in Orange County or Los Angeles, where there are a lot of workers.
“I hope the higher wage rate will attract more people to come and stay,” she said.
Julia McCurdy, another queen who has worked at Medieval Times for nearly 10 years, said she is earning higher wages at her second job as a Disneyland entertainment host, facilitating fan interaction with Disney characters. The Knights of the Medieval Times, in particular, she said, should “start getting paid like professional stuntmen.” (Bowman said he makes about $18 an hour.)
“We are trained professionals with very high standards of performance,” McCurdy, 29, said. “If they want to maintain any semblance of the quality of their show, they’re going to have to pay for it.”
The Medieval Times did not respond to a HuffPost request for comment on the Buena Park union campaign and did not say anything publicly after the union’s victory in New Jersey. But the company made its position clear to workers by hiring an anti-union consultant to hold meetings with employees at Lyndhurst Castle for $3,200 a day.
After voting in Lyndhurst, Medieval Times CEO Perico Montaner, whose family founded the company, sent ominous email non-unionized workers who seemed to be set up to cool off any further organization.
“Let’s be clear what these employees ‘won’ today,” Montaner wrote in the note. according to NJ.com. “They ‘won’ the privilege of having a third person sit at a table across from the Company and ask something… Half of all new alliances never make their first contract. There is no time limit for negotiations.
“As cool as it is that I wake up every day and pretend to be a knight, it’s an incredibly dangerous job.”
– Jake Bowman, medieval knight
As HuffPost reported on Wednesday, Montaner later told non-union workers that they would receiving an unexpected raise in the middle of the year, which he explained not by the emergence of the union, but by the company’s efforts to help workers in conditions of high inflation. Employers often try to cool down unions by raising the wages of non-union workers, all the while claiming that newly unionized workers will have to negotiate any raises.
“We wouldn’t be here right now if we hadn’t exhausted all of our other options,” McCurdy said. “I see no downside to having someone whose literal job is to protect us.”
Whatever tactics Montaner and his team use, it can be difficult for a company to shut down organizational activity, in part because the realm of the Middle Ages is smaller than it looks.
In fact, Zapcic was a queen in New Jersey before moving to Los Angeles for more acting opportunities. She was one of the actors who played Dona Maria Isabella, the first woman to take the throne at Lyndhurst. She kept her connections in Jersey when the union campaign flared up there and was happy to take the lead in a new endeavor in Buena Park. It didn’t hurt that she was a member of SAG-AFTRA, the actors’ union, and her father worked for the state branch of the AFL-CIO labor federation.
Zapcic said her experience gave her “a unique opportunity to help get things moving.”
“We love what we do,” she said. “In most cases, people only move on when they feel they have to. They want to start a family or buy a house. You shouldn’t quit a job you love just because you can’t afford it anymore.”
The labor council must confirm that the union has collected enough cards before calling an election. After voting, a union must win a simple majority of the votes cast to become a workers’ representative. A lopsided yes vote in New Jersey looks set to bode well for the union in the elections in Southern California, where unions have a strong presence.
Bowman said he and other workers appreciated the outpouring of support Medieval Times workers received on Twitter following the HuffPost report. previous report about the efforts in New Jersey. And yes, he also loves puns, which seem to have no limits. Knights of Labor! They form craft guild! The peasants have officially risen!
But he doesn’t want all the fun to overshadow serious concerns, including the safety of animals and workers.
“It’s not just us,” Bowman said. “The animals are overworked. There are a couple of horses in the show that do everything. We develop close relationships with them. But when they get tired, they can’t say, “Slow down.” We push them to the show and they’ll bite or kick.”
During earlier work with the Medieval Times at their Texas castle about nine years ago, Bowman says he suffered a hairline fracture on his L1 vertebra when he was kicked by a horse. This experience has stayed with him to this day. He said that many knights tend to be younger than him, in their early 20s, and he wonders how long his body will allow him to keep jumping from horses.
“Sixteen times a week is a lot of stress on your joints, knees, ankles and back,” he said. “It tires you out after a while.”