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Disneyland performers complain about painful costumes, low pay, and inflexible management as part of push to unionize

Joshua Zitser   

Disneyland performers complain about painful costumes, low pay, and inflexible management as part of push to unionize
  • Disneyland performers in California say they have to deal with painful costumes and low pay.
  • The claims surfaced in a video by More Perfect Union as part of a unionization push.

Performers at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, say they are made to wear painful costumes, receive inadequate pay, and face challenges with inflexible management.

Three workers made these claims in a video published on the labor movement platform More Perfect Union as part of a campaign by park employees to unionize.

In February, cast members announced their intent to unionize with the Actors' Equity Association, also known as Equity, to form a group called Magic United.

While Walt Disney World performers in Florida have long enjoyed union representation, their counterparts in California, particularly those within the Characters and Parades departments, are now voting on whether to follow suit.

In the video shared on Wednesday, three performers detailed their grievances about working for Disneyland.

Mai Vao, a character performer and a California Adventure host, described how she has to go through "three hours of hair and makeup, wearing prosthetics," four days a week, for her job.

She said she regularly had to wear 18mm sclera and black contact lenses, which she claimed "created a gray stain around my iris."

Courtney Griffith, a parade performer, said in the video that she sustained an injury from wearing her costume — a dress with a giant cape that pulled backward on her shoulders.

Her injury, she said, was "the type of pain where you instantly start crying."

Griffith said that most of her colleagues have a permanent injury: "The magic starts to fade away, and you're just left with not being able to pay my rent, permanent injuries, and management who doesn't value or respect you."

Adam Hefner, a superhero performer and safety leader for seven years, said in the video that there "isn't any incentive, financially, to put your body at risk.'"

He said that often performers work hard "while living in your car because you can't pay rent."

For others, Hefner said they face drives home of up to two hours to "be able to live with three roommates, and then turn around eight hours after and head back because you've been scheduled for a shift."

Griffith also complained about shifts and management's inflexible attendance policy. She said she has to work six days a week for six weeks straight to earn one day off.

Griffith claimed that performers with school or other jobs in the morning are sometimes told to leave their other commitments early to attend rehearsals that start prior to their scheduled shift times.

Vao said in the video that it's hard to do a good job when they feel underappreciated: "It's really, really hard to make magic for guests when you're deeply unhappy inside."

Disneyland Resorts did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Results on unionization are expected to be announced on Saturday.




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