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Disneyland character performers vote to unionize

<i>AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images/Getty Images via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse are depicted in the 'Partners' statue at Disneyland in Anaheim
AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images/Getty Images via CNN Newsource
Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse are depicted in the 'Partners' statue at Disneyland in Anaheim

By Eva Rothenberg, CNN

New York (CNN) — You can add Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy to the growing list of workers seeking better employment benefits.

After three days of voting last week, 1,700 Disneyland Resort cast members who play characters around the theme park in Anaheim, California, as well as perform at parades, voted to unionize under Actors’ Equity Association, the union announced Saturday night.

Equity described the vote as “a landslide victory,” with 953 cast members favoring unionization and 258 opposed.

The group had announced a union organizing effort in February before filing for a vote with the National Labor Relations Board in April. There are more than 21,000 Disneyland “cast member” employees, who are represented by more than a dozen unions. Those unionized jobs include workers in retail, food service, security, pyrotechnic, and hair and makeup.

Until now, employees dressing up as iconic Disney characters like Mickey Mouse, Cinderella, Snow White and Captain Hook have been excluded.

“These workers are on the front lines of the Guest experience; they’re the human beings who create lifelong memories when your kids hug a character, or when your family watches a parade roll by the castle,” said Actors’ Equity Association President Kate Shindle in a statement. “The next step will be to collaborate with them about improving health & safety, wages, benefits, working conditions and job security.”

The labor relations board is expected to certify the results next week, after which contract negotiations with The Walt Disney Company will begin. Equity said it does not know how long the bargaining process will take, adding Disney has been “relatively cooperative throughout this process.”

“We have a long, positive relationship with The Walt Disney Company, both at Walt Disney World and at Disney Theatricals, and we look forward to establishing a similarly productive relationship with the Disneyland Resort,” an Equity spokesperson told CNN.

A Disneyland Resort spokesperson told CNN it is too soon for the company to comment on the unionization vote because the election has yet to be certified. “Whatever the outcome, we respect that our cast members had the opportunity to have their voices heard,” the spokesperson said.

On the other side of the country, Disney World character actors have been represented by Teamsters since the 1980s. More than 400 actors, stunt performers and singers unionized under Equity in 1990 at the theme park in Orlando, Florida. Today, Equity estimates they represent around 800 cast members at Disney World.

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CNN’s Chris Isidore and Natasha Chen contributed to this report.

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