For over 80 years the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA) has been the union of variety artists, including singers and dancers in theatrical revues and touring shows, theme park performers, skaters, circus performers, and comedians. Today, AGVA members are employed at some of the most iconic venues across the country, including Radio City Music Hall, Disneyland, and Universal Studios Hollywood.


Cody Smith, Kasey Hughes, and Mandy Mondoro are all performers in the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes show at the Radio City Music Hall in New York, and have been AGVA members ranging from 13 to over 20 years. They are all proud and grateful to be AGVA members because of the support they’ve gained in the workplace. Specifically, they appreciate knowing their coworkers have their back if any issues arise while they are performing.


“It’s nice to have support,” said Mandy, an ensemble dancer in the Christmas Spectacular show and AGVA member. “Somebody else has your back if issues arise.”


AGVA Member Mandy Mondoro

Kasey, a singer for the Christmas Spectacular show, agrees with Mandy on the support felt as an AGVA member.


“It’s nice to have someone in your corner,” said Kasey. “We have that extra group support to get what we need.”


AGVA health and welfare insurance receives high praise from Cody and Kasey, as one of the benefits they value most in their union contract.


“For us the insurance is the most beneficial because it covers all the bases, it’s very good insurance and it’s very easy to come by,” said Kasey.


While Mandy is happy to have access to AGVA health insurance and values the wage increases guaranteed in her AGVA contract, the provisions around working conditions are most important to her.


“Knowing that there are specific rules… [and] standard[s] in the workplace is a really nice peace of mind,” said Mandy.


She points to the contract laying out breaks and procedures around costumes and equipment, in her case shoes, which can be used to make sure performers are safe and comfortable both during rehearsals and actual shows.


Cody also spoke to the benefits of having working conditions laid out in a union contract.


“We’re protected, if someone goes over a break or tries to schedule us for a seventh day and doesn’t want to pay us the overtime… the union is there to make sure that stuff doesn’t happen,” said Cody.


AGVA Member Cody Smith

All three of the performers have participated in contract negotiations and have played an important role in continuing to improve their workplace.


One of the unique aspects of AGVA is its boutique feel. While AGVA is a relatively small union, there’s personalized support and members can always reach an AGVA staffer. According to Kasey, AGVA’s expertise and membership of solely variety performers makes it just right for Medieval Times performers.


“It’s the perfect fit,” said Kasey.


Cody agrees with this sentiment and said, “[AGVA is] very hands-on [in our support] … [and the staff] care a lot about our members.”


All three performers are very excited about the prospect of Medieval Times performers joining their union and are confident membership in AGVA will be beneficial.


“This is a great step for them,” said Cody. “It will keep the performers and management on the same page.”

AGVA Member Kasey Hughes

Mandy stressed that there’s no negatives to Medieval Times performers forming a union with AGVA, only workplace improvements to be gained.


“There’s really no reason not to be supportive of a union,” said Mandy. “It just gives you that peace of mind… and there will be built-in security for anyone who gets hired in the future.”


Kasey emphasized how a union will provide a balance of power at Medieval Times.


“Having a union that represents you, as opposed to the company, really helps balance it out,” said Kasey. “A union actually makes everything much, much easier.”




AGVA members at Disneyland, Radio City Music Hall, and Universal Studios Hollywood have used their collective power to improve their pay, benefits, and working conditions.

Pay

  • AGVA members at Disneyland secured annual 3% pay increases during the five-year term of their current collective bargaining agreement (also referred to as a union contract).

  • The Radio City Rockettes, all of whom are AGVA members, are receiving annual pay increases of 3.75% and 3.25% under their current collective bargaining agreement.

  • AGVA members at Universal Studios Hollywood are receiving 3% annual wage increases under their latest collective bargaining agreement, and the wage rates for those working on the Special Effects Show represent a 5% increase from their last rate.

Benefits

  • AGVA members at Disneyland have the option to participate in their employer’s health and welfare plan or AGVA’s Welfare Trust Fund plan.

  • AGVA members at Universal Studios Hollywood are eligible for their employer to match their 401(k) contributions up to 3.5% of their annual earnings.

  • AGVA members at Universal Studios Hollywood are eligible for employer provided medical, dental, and vision benefits as well as life insurance with 90% of the premium cost covered by their employer after six months of employment.

  • AGVA members with the Radio City Rockettes are entitled to over $1500 to reimburse for dance classes, voice classes, acting classes, technique classes, yoga classes, gym memberships, and therapies for injury prevention.

Paid time off

  • AGVA members at Universal Studios Hollywood received two weeks of paid vacation after one year of employment, which increases to three weeks after five years of employment, and to four weeks after 10 years of employment, while also accruing sick leave.

  • At Radio City, AGVA members accrue personal/sick time at the rate of approximately one day per month. Vacation pay is accrued at the rate of either 11.5% of straight time base pay, or one week for every 11 weeks worked, depending on the particular collective bargaining agreement under which the member is working.

  • AGVA members at Disneyland employed for one to four years receive two weeks of paid vacation, those employed for five to 14 years receive three weeks of paid vacation, those employed for 15 to 19 years receive four weeks of paid vacation, and those employed for 20 years or more receive five weeks for paid vacation.

Safety

  • Universal Studios Hollywood employees who are AGVA members have a crowd control provision in their union contract that requires Universal Studios Hollywood to take steps to make sure employees are safe while they are performing, including by removing guests.

  • AGVA members’ contract at Universal Studios Hollywood also provides for a safety committee made up of representatives from the union and management that meets at least one hour per month.

Scheduling

  • AGVA members at Disneyland must be given two weeks notice of employer changes to the regular workweek schedule.

Due Process

  • AGVA members have “just cause” clauses in their union contracts, which means employees cannot be disciplined or dismissed without a just and fair reason.

  • Through their union contracts, AGVA members have due process protections. Employees must be notified of supposed wrongdoing, given an opportunity to respond to allegations made against them, provided the opportunity to have a union representative in disciplinary meetings, and have the ability to grieve any violation of their union contract, including failure to abide by the progressive discipline process.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


CONTACT: Medieval Times Performers United Organizing Committee, MTUnitedNJ@gmail.com


Lyndhurst, N.J., June 28, 2022 - The 40 actors, stunt performers, and stable hands at the Lyndhurst, New Jersey location of Medieval Times, a medieval-themed dinner theater show, are joining together in union with the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA). The group of employees in Medieval Times’ knights and squires, showcast, and stable departments seeking AGVA representation is referring to themselves as Medieval Times Performers United. They will have the opportunity to vote to be AGVA members on July 15 during an in-person National Labor Relations Board facilitated election.


Medieval Times Performers United organizing committee members released the following statement:


“We are the actors, stunt performers, and stable hands of Medieval Times in Lyndhurst, New Jersey joining together in union to create a fairer, safer, and more enjoyable workplace. With a supermajority of support, we are excited to be forming our union with the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA).


Medieval Times has struggled with staffing, security, and safety after reopening from the COVID-19 closure. Additionally, our wages have failed to keep up with those in similar positions in our industry and what is necessary for a living wage in Lyndhurst. With our seat at the table with management, we aim to collaborate to improve safety protocols and enforcement as well as create more equitable pay scales.


We enjoy performing for Medieval Times guests, and know that with our union we can foster a more respectful workplace that enhances our experience and that of our guests. We look forward to voting for our union on July 15!”