LYNDHURST, NJ — Performers at the Medieval Times in Lyndhurst have just voted to unionize.
As CBS2’s Ali Bauman reports, it’s part of a larger trend.
Once upon a time in New Jersey, a group of knights dissatisfied with their pay and working conditions.
“I think almost everyone who works here in our positions has to rely on side income,” said performer Sean Quigley.
He says the cast members, many of whom have to joust on live horses, are basically stunt performers who earn around $100 a show.
“I’ve seen very young people, 20s, 21s, who end up getting chronic injuries,” Quigley said. “And sometimes they are no longer physically able to continue working, at which point they leave the company and they are fired with a pat on the back.”
So just last week artists voted to unionize. They even did it with the support of Governor Phil Murphy.
“They’re excited to be able to continue doing their jobs in a situation where they can live comfortably and predictably, which is something they’ve struggled with for years,” Quigley said.
This tale of knights is part of a larger trend. A Rutgers University study found that there are more New Jersey workers in a union now than there were before the pandemic.
“Considering that this is either a steady decline or at best a maintenance of membership, this is really a kind of historical change in direction,” said Professor Todd Vachon, director of the worker education program at Rutgers.
Vachon, who authored the report, says the pandemic has been a turning point for many workers, especially those in the service sector.
“A lot of people were really dealing with, you know, dangerous and unhealthy working conditions, which inspired a lot of collective activism at work,” he said.
The report found that a handful of other states are seeing a similar trend to New Jersey, and new labor efforts, such as ininspire more workers.
“It really helped people realize that this is something normal,” Quigley said.
“We’re just going to be curious to see what it will look like two years from now when we do this report again, to see if it’s just a speck on the radar or if there really has been a change. fortune for the labor movement,” Vachon said.
Medieval Times management did not respond to repeated requests for comment from CBS2.
Now the knights are preparing to start negotiations.