Workers at a Medieval Times castle in Southern California have ended their nine-month strike against the dinner theater chain and plan to go back to their jobs Wednesday.
The workers’ union said it had submitted an unconditional offer to return to work and that Medieval Times had accepted. The castle’s show cast and knights first walked off the job back in February after accusing the company of committing unfair labor practices, including trying to silence them on social media.
Workers at the Buena Park castle have been trying to bargain a first contract since joining the American Guild of Variety Artists more than a year ago. The union said in a statement that the call to end the strike was “a decision we did not make lightly,” and thanked “the thousands of guests, union members, and community allies” who showed their solidarity.
“Make no mistake: the strike may be over, but our fight is not,” the union said. “We are as united as ever in our effort to attain a contract that addresses our key issues and makes Medieval Times a safe and equitable workplace.”
The strike may be over, but our fight is not.The Medieval Times union
The union also said that Medieval Times refused to reinstate three of the striking workers, including outspoken knight and union activist Jake Bowman, who had leveled allegations of horse abuse at the castle. The company had accused the workers of “misconduct while on strike,” according to the union.
The union called the company’s decision “blatant, illegal retaliation” against those employees.
“We will be pursuing the appropriate legal avenues to ensure the proper reinstatement of our three striking workers who have dedicated their time — and put their livelihoods on the line — for nine months,” the union said.
Medieval Times did not immediately respond when asked to comment on the strike’s end or to elaborate on the alleged misconduct by strikers.
The Buena Park castle was the second Medieval Times location to organize, following the castle in Lyndhurst, New Jersey. The company, known for its dinner shows that feature jousting and horse stunts, has nine castles across the U.S. Workers said they were fighting for higher pay and safer working conditions at a surprisingly dangerous job.
Both the union and labor board prosecutors have accused Medieval Times of running afoul of the law in its efforts to stop the union campaign.
Earlier this year, the general counsel for the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint alleging that management had taken part in a scheme meant to undermine union support at the Buena Park castle. That complaint has been settled.
In another complaint, the general counsel alleged that the company illegally fired a union supporter, withheld raises from unionized workers and tried to have the union’s TikTok account banned. That complaint is scheduled to go to trial later this year.
The strike at Medieval Times' Buena Park castle in California lasted for nine months.
As HuffPost first reported, TikTok shut down the union’s account after receiving an intellectual property complaint from Medieval Times early this year. Medieval Times claimed that the workers’ chosen name for their union — Medieval Times Performers United — and its imagery violated the company’s trademarks. (The company later filed a trademark claim against the union in federal court, but a judge dismissed the case.)
The union’s TikTok account had been critical of Medieval Times, and pressed for higher pay and safer working conditions at the castles. The Buena Park workers cited the TikTok ban as one of the reasons they launched their strike in February.
Strikes can often help workers pressure an employer into agreeing to a collective bargaining agreement. First contracts can be particularly difficult to negotiate and sometimes take years.
TikTok shut down the union’s account after receiving an intellectual property complaint from Medieval Times early this year.
Erin Zapcic, who plays a queen in Buena Park and also serves as a spokesperson for the castle’s union, said workers had a number of factors to consider in prolonging the strike further. The union is now approaching the one-year anniversary since it was certified by the National Labor Relations Board, which could make it vulnerable to a decertification effort by union opponents.
“There were a lot of things we kind of had to weigh,” Zapcic said. “If it seems abrupt, it is. It was not in our immediate plans. After a conversation with our legal team it seemed like our best course of action.”
Zapcic said she had no regrets about going on strike for so long.
“We are the first people in this company’s history to stand up for ourselves, push back and say, ‘This isn’t right,’” she said. “Obviously, I wish we had a different outcome. But we’re still fighting for our contract and committed to getting a collective bargaining agreement that addresses all of our issues.”
Zapcic said 27 workers — or around two-thirds of the bargaining unit — had originally gone on strike. Strikers will now return to their jobs and work alongside colleagues who never honored the picket line, and possibly some replacement workers — “scabs” in union parlance — who took jobs during the strike.
The cast and knights will need to go through rehearsals before they can return to live shows, Zapcic noted.
“I haven’t ridden a horse in nine months,” she said.