Jake Bowman, like most of his fellow artists, loves his work.
But playing a flamboyant knight at the Medieval Times Dinner Theater in Buena Park, California comes with risks. And in his case…$18.50 per hour.
“I broke my thumb last month,” said the 33-year-old Anaheim resident. “I had a sword in both hands and my opponent’s sword hit my thumb joint. I couldn’t make a fist for a month.”
This was not the first incident. During his previous stint at the Medieval Times in Dallas, he was kicked in the back by a horse and suffered a spinal fracture in his lower back. Live performance has such risks.
In an effort to address security concerns and secure higher wages, Buena Park wants to form the castle’s artists union.
On Friday, 50 knights, queens, squires, equestrians and stablemen of the venue submitted a petition for a union election to the National Labor Relations Board, a vote to join the American Guild of Variety Artists, or AGVA. calls for.
The move comes on the heels of the union’s victory at The Medieval Times’ Lindhurst, New Jersey, location, where a 26–11 vote of workers secured AGVA membership. The Dallas-based company operates a total of 10 Medieval Times dinner theaters with additional locations in Dallas, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Myrtle Beach, SC; Orlando, Fla.; Scottsdale, Ariz.; and Toronto.
Representatives for Medieval Times management could not be reached for comment.
According to AGVA’s National Office of Secretary Treasurer Suzanne Dorris, employees of the Medieval Times just received a salary of $1-an-hour, but many are still scrapping.
“We want them to be paid for their skills,” she said. “We’ve had some employees tell us they can’t afford to be alone on the money they’re making, and others say they can’t buy a car for transportation. It’s critical.”
“I also work at Disneyland and I see stunt performers there with no horseback riding skills doing $33 to $35 an hour stunt shows that are five minutes long,” said Julia McCurdy, who was a midwife. Plays the role of a queen in The Times. “Meanwhile, our knights are doing two-hour shows two to three times a day and throwing themselves away from the horses as they walk. This is worrisome.”
McCurdy said the new workers, called squares, are approaching minimum wage.
“I’ve seen a lot of knights being taken in ambulances,” she said. “It’s a fun place to work and we all really love our jobs, but I feel like they’re getting away with paying low wages. These guys could go to work at In-N-Out And could earn $25 without harming his body.