Watch CBS News

Actors who portray Disney characters at Disneyland poised to take next step in unionization effort

Disneyland cast members make moves to unionize
Disneyland cast members make moves to unionize 02:10

Workers who bring Disney characters to life at the entertainment giant's West Coast amusement parks said on Wednesday they have gathered enough signatures to unionize.

More than two-thirds of roughly 1,700 eligible Disney performers, including those who dress in character at meet-and-greets and parades at Disney's Southern California theme parks, said they have signed their union authorization cards and election petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and are ready to move on to the next step. In lieu of voluntary recognition from the House of Mouse, that next step would be to hold a vote on union representation, which will likely happen in May or June, they said. 

"We love the work we do," the workers said in a statement Wednesday. "We are proud to be a part of one of the greatest legacies in modern entertainment. We believe improving our collective working conditions will have a direct impact on not only cast members' lives, but the caliber of entertainment we offer at Disneyland Resort." 

The workers said they also have asked The Walt Disney Company to recognize their union, which they are calling "Magic United," but have not received a response. Magic United's main demands include higher pay, a safe and sanitary workplace and transparency in scheduling and rehiring, according to the group. 

"We support our cast members' right to a confidential vote that recognizes their individual choices," Disney officials said in a statement Wednesday.

Anaheim City approves Disneyland expansion proposal 02:35

Most of the more than 35,000 workers at Disneyland Resort, home of the company's first theme park, already have unions. Parade and character workers announced their plans to unionize in February to address safety concerns and scheduling, among other issues.

The union would be formed under Actors' Equity Association, which already represents theatrical performers at Disney theme parks in Florida. Disney workers who portray characters have been non-union employees since Disneyland first opened in 1955, but "have watched other workers in the park unionize all around them," Equity President Kate Shindle said in the statement.

"They deserve a voice in their workplace, and meaningful negotiations over wages, benefits and working conditions," she added. 

Union membership has been on a decades-long decline in the United States, but organizations have seen growing public support in recent years amid high-profile contract negotiations involving Hollywood studios and Las Vegas hotels. The NLRB, which protects workers' right to organize, reported more than 2,500 filings for union representation during the 2023 fiscal year, the highest number in eight years.

Disney has a major presence in Anaheim, where it operates two theme parks — Disneyland and Disney California Adventure — as well as a shopping and entertainment area called Downtown Disney. Disneyland, the company's oldest park, was the world's second-most visited theme park in 2022, hosting 16.8 million people, according to a report by the Themed Entertainment Association and AECOM.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.