The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, May/June 2024 edition. To view other editions of Foundation Action or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Performers banished union officials after they pushed unpopular, divisive strikes

Hail Queen Dean, Vanquisher of Unwanted Unions: Michelle Dean and her fellow Medieval Times performers ousted AGVA union officials, who had ordered employees on a lengthy and unproductive strike.

WASHINGTON, DC – Medieval Times, a nationwide chain of dinner theater “castles” in which a four-course meal is served while knights spar for Queen Doña Maria Isabella’s favor, provides guests a fun and captivating trip back in time.

But, at the castles in Buena Park, CA, and Lyndhurst, NJ, a more sinister plot was unfolding among the hardworking performers. Officials of the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA) union had ordered or were pressuring employees to go on strike, an unpopular move which caused division in the workplaces. At the California location, AGVA bosses issued an edict forcing many performers off the job for roughly nine months.

Majorities of Performers Backed AGVA Removal

Sensing that their fellow performers had had enough of AGVA’s attempts to control them, Artemisia Morley and Michelle Dean — who play the Queens at the New Jersey and California castles respectively — sought free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. Both women filed petitions backed by their coworkers asking the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to hold votes at their workplaces on whether to banish AGVA union officials.

The NLRB is the federal agency responsible for enforcing federal labor law, which includes administering elections to install (or “certify”) and remove (or “decertify”) unions. Majorities of performers at both castles backed the petitions — far exceeding the 30% threshold needed to trigger an election under NLRB rules.

Rather than face a secret ballot vote of the workers they claimed to “represent,” AGVA union chiefs filed “disclaimers of interest” and fled both castles before either election could take place — likely sensing that the majority-backed petitions signaled a defeat was coming.

Even after Morley had filed a decertification petition indicating the majority of her coworkers wanted a vote to decertify AGVA, union bosses tried to cling to power at the New Jersey castle. They attempted to block the vote by filing “blocking charges,” which are often-unrelated allegations against management meant to derail a vote.

The tide substantially turned against AGVA union officials in New Jersey after Morley’s Foundation attorneys successfully challenged a decision from an NLRB Regional Director that halted the decertification vote based on union officials’ “blocking charges.” Filings in Morley’s case indicated that the performers’ discontent with the union had nothing to do with Medieval Times management and was rather due to “secretive, self-interested, and divisive” behavior by union bosses and their insistence on a strike.

‘Secretive, Self-Interested’ Union Boss Behavior Led to Performers’ Revolt

Meanwhile, in California, AGVA union officials called off a roughly nine-month-long strike at the Buena Park Medieval Times just before Dean filed her decertification petition, likely aware of the tension the strike was causing and the growing number of performers who supported ejecting the union.

“AGVA union officials treated each Medieval Times castle as their own personal fiefdom, but their actions led to an uprising of the rank-and-file they purported to ‘represent,’” commented National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens. “While the wishes of the Medieval Times performers have finally been obtained, it should be remembered that workers all over the country are subjected to union control they oppose, and they face fierce union and bureaucratic battles to secure secret ballot decertification votes.”.

Posted on Jun 20, 2024 in Newsletter Articles