Disneyland costumed character employees vote to unionize

Disneyland Resort employees who portray costumed characters such as Mickey Mouse or Cinderella have voted to unionize under the Actors' Equity Assn.

The unit, which consists of 1,700 people, voted 953 in favor of unionization and 258 against, Actors' Equity said Saturday night on the social media platform X. Of the votes tallied, 79% were pro-union.

The results of the vote, overseen by the National Labor Relations Board, come after a three-day election period in which employees, known as "cast members" in Disney parlance, placed their votes at three polling sites in Disneyland. The employees announced their intent to unionize in February.

"This is an incredible victory, and we appreciate all the support over the past several weeks. We're excited about the next phase," said Actors' Equity Assn. President Kate Shindle in a statement. "These cast members are both pro-union and pro-Disney, and they're looking forward to meeting with their employer across the bargaining table in a good faith effort to make both the work experience and the guest experience better."

The workers regularly don full-body costumes of well-known animated Disney characters. They also portray so-called lookalike characters, such as the Disney princesses, in which the actors' faces are exposed while performing. These employees work at meet-and-greets in the parks, perform in parades and are part of dining experiences in the Disneyland Resort hotels.

Read more: 'The fairy dust fades away': Why the people who play Disneyland's costumed characters are unionizing

“While voting is complete, there are still steps in the process prior to the election being certified, so it is premature for the company to comment on the results," said Disneyland spokesperson Jessica Good in a statement. "Whatever the outcome, we respect that our cast members had the opportunity to have their voices heard.”

Organizers said prior to the election that a top priority was creating a healthier and safer working environment for these workers, who often endure injury and discomfort due to the physical nature of their jobs.

Employees can get accidentally injured during guest interactions, such as when a child jumps on a costumed character out of excitement, or intentionally hurt. A recent social media trend emerged in which guests distract employees wearing full-body costumes, then try to twist or aggressively move their heads around.

The Disneyland Resort employees in the characters and parades departments now join their counterparts in Walt Disney World in Florida in being part of a union. Most of the rest of the Disneyland Resort workforce, including custodians, ride operators and merchandise clerks, among others, are already unionized.

The organizing effort comes as the Walt Disney Co. plans to invest $60 billion over 10 years into its "experiences" division, which includes the theme parks, resorts, cruise line and merchandise. That division has proved to be a cash cow for the company; last year, it brought in about 70% of Disney's operating income.

At Disneyland Resort, that investment will result in what company Chief Executive Bob Iger called the biggest expansion of the parks since the addition of Disney's California Adventure, which opened in 2001. The plan, known as DisneylandForward, will result in at least $1.9 billion in development and could include new attractions alongside restaurant, retail and hotel space.

The plan calls for changes to the park’s zoning, allowing the company more freedom to mix attractions, theme parks, shopping, dining and parking. While the plan doesn’t specify which attractions will be added to the resort, company officials have floated ideas including immersive "Avatar," "Frozen" and "Tron" experiences.

Times staff writers Christi Carras and Ryan Faughnder contributed to this report.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.