A National Labour Relations Board regional director filed a complaint Tuesday accusing Medieval Times management of an illegal scheme to undermine union support at its castle in Buena Park, California.
Last year, workers at the castle launched a union campaign to improve wages and working conditions, collecting signed union cards from show cast members, equestrian knights and grooms. A petition was later circulated asking some workers who had signed union cards to withdraw them.
The complaint alleges that the head of the training and development department of the dinner theatre chain played a direct role in this attempt to torpedo the union by providing guidance on the petition and encouraging workers to withdraw their support.
Workers can ask to revoke their union authorization cards if they change their minds, but it is illegal for management to engage in such efforts, as it could constitute coercion.
“We had to deal with months of near-constant union busting from Medieval Times.”
– Erin Zapcic, queen at the Buena Park castle
The American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA) union had filed a complaint with the NLRB accusing Medieval Times of violating the law with the petition. The complaint, issued on Tuesday, means that NLRB officials have investigated the union’s allegations and find them to be true. If Medieval Times does not settle, it will go to trial.
AGVA won the election by a vote of 27 to 18, rendering the alleged illegal petition drive moot. However, the regional director, Nathan M. Seidman, said Medieval Times must admit it violated the law and post a notice of workers’ rights at Buena Park Castle and also read it to workers.
Erin Zapcic, an ensemble queen and union representative, said in a statement that workers were “thrilled” that the authority had filed a complaint against the company.
“During our organizing campaign, we had to deal with months of almost constant union suppression by Medieval Times,” Zapcic said. “Most egregiously, the company made an attempt to completely nullify our election through deception, manipulation and illegal means.
Zapcic described the lawsuit filed on Tuesday as “the first of what I’m sure will be many lawsuits against this company” and noted that the union has accused Medieval Times of other unfair labor practices that are under investigation.
Medieval Times did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The California lock was the company’s second lock where a union was formed, following an earlier campaign at the Lyndhurst, New Jersey lock. Workers at both locations are now trying to negotiate a first contract. The unions include performers and grooms at the castles, but not food service and retail workers.
Performers at the Buena Park show, and the Knights have been on strike since February over unfair labor practices, accusing Medieval Times of trying to silence them on social media. The company has hired replacement workers – strikebreakers in union parlance – from other castles. According to the union, some replacement knights from the Toronto castle were turned away by US immigration authorities because they did not have work visas.
Last year, the company filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against AGVA over the name the workers had chosen for their union, Medieval Times Performers United, and the medieval symbolism of its logo. The company claimed that the union’s name and imagery would cause confusion among customers and jeopardize its brand.
The company later filed intellectual property complaints with Facebook and TikTok and succeeded in getting the California Castle union’s TikTok account shut down. The union then filed further unfair labor practice charges against the company, claiming that the trademark lawsuit and social media complaints were illegal attempts to gag it.