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.”
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.
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.”
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.”