New Jersey Medieval Times performers vote to unionize amid nationwide trend

LINDHURST, New Jersey — Medieval Times artists in Lyndhurst have just voted to unionize.

As CBS2’s Ali Bauman reports, this is part of a larger trend.

A long time ago, a group of knights lived in New Jersey, dissatisfied with their pay and working conditions.

“I think that almost everyone who works here in our positions is forced to rely on secondary income,” said performer Sean Quigley.

He says the actors, many of whom have to compete on live horses, are essentially stuntmen who make about $100 per show.

“I have seen people at very young ages, 20 to 21 years old, end up with chronic injuries,” Quigley said. “And sometimes they’re physically unable to continue working, at which point they leave the company and they’re sent on their way with a pat on the back.”

So, just last week, the performers voted for unionization. They even did it with the support of the governor. Phil Murphy.

“They are encouraged by the idea that they can continue to do their job in a situation where they can live comfortably and predictably, which they have struggled with for years,” Quigley said.

The stories of these knights are part of a larger trend. A Rutgers University study found that there are now more New Jersey workers in the union than before the pandemic.

“Given that this has been either a steady decline or, at best, a retention of membership, this is indeed kind of a historic change in direction,” said Professor Todd Vachon, director of the labor education program at Rutgers.

Vashon, author of the report, says the pandemic has been a turning point for many workers, especially in the service sector.

“Many, you know, faced really unsafe and unhealthy working conditions, so that inspired a lot of collective activity at work,” he said.

The report says that several other states are seeing a similar trend to New Jersey and new union efforts such as Amazon warehouse in Staten Islandinspire more workers.

“It really helped people understand that this is normal,” Quigley said.

“We will just be curious to see what it looks like two years from now when we write this report again to see if this was just a blip on the radar or if there really was a change of fortune for the labor movement. Vashon said.

Medieval Times management did not respond to CBS2’s repeated requests for comment.

Now the knights are preparing to begin negotiations.