Knights of the Bargaining Table: Medieval Times United Strike Enters Eighth Week

Members of the Buena Park workers union are picketing at the castle’s entrance in support of the union’s ongoing strike against unfair labor practices. 
Photographs by Kate Farrell

On Sundays from the early afternoon to late evening, knights, queens, and noblemen dressed in renaissance casual are armed with picket posters in Buena Park. During these “Strike Faire Sundays,” members of the workers union Medieval Times Performers United, Buena Park, and their supporters don their best medieval attire to picket at the castle’s entrance in support of the union’s ongoing strike against unfair labor practices. 

“When we first started striking (eight weeks ago), we had a lot of people asking if they could come in costume, so we first did a Medieval Monday,” says Erin Zapcic, a union leader who plays a queen in the show. “People enjoyed it so much and we got a lot of support, so we decided to make it a regular thing. However you want to storm the castle, whether that’s your ren faire garb or your Amazon princess costume, no judgment. Just come out in whatever you feel special in.” 

As seen in a TikTok video of the week five Strike Faire Sunday by Kate Farrell, an MT Performers United member who also plays a queen, the strikers’ fashion sense allows them to continue expressing their creativity even off the tournament stage.  

Farrell’s regular posts about the strike on her personal TikTok account often go viral—one video about the castle’s billboard displaying a “now hiring” notice during the strike is currently at 1.1 million views. Zapcic didn’t have a TikTok account before the strike, but she quickly created one to share picketing updates with the public.  

Social media has played a large role in MT Performers United gaining publicity, and the union had a growing following of its own until its TikTok account was disabled following a lawsuit filed against the union by Medieval Times for “infringing on their trademark and causing consumer confusion,” according to Zapcic. Part of their bargaining asks—along with better pay, treatment, and onsite medical aid—is to recover access to that account.  

Medieval Times in Buena Park has not responded to requests for comment, but the Associated Press reported in February that Daniel J. Sobol, the company’s lawyer, indicated that there were only two meetings with the union before its members went on strike and that the show will go on. 

“We have a team of original Medieval Times knights and squires in place, and we look forward to hosting our guests at our already scheduled performances,” Sobol said in a statement at the time.  

Jake Bowman, a union member and knight in the show, shared videos and photos online of animal abuse against the show horses. Bowman posted videos of a horse being whipped and photos of the resulting injuries. Zapcic says that prior to sharing the photos and videos, the union had brought concerns about the treatment of the horses to management on multiple occasions.  

“But every time, we were told that we didn’t know what we were talking about and that if the horse trainer says it’s not abuse, it’s not abuse, even though you should absolutely never, ever, ever strike a horse with a whip,” she says. 

The strikers also have concerns for the safety and mental wellbeing of the performers working with animals. 

Every time this occurs, it puts undue stress and discomfort on the animal, which we as performers then have to ride and work with. Our job is dangerous enough as it is and in these circumstances the danger is increased for the performers exponentially,” Bowman Tweeted. 

According to Josh Royce and Jesus Lopez, union members and knights in the show, when a serious injury occurs during a performance, the current policy is to take a tarp and use it to cover the affected persons, animals, and area. 

“Even when there’s an injury that’s not that bad, say if you get hit in the face with a sword and you’re bleeding but you can still stand okay, then there’s this sort of culture of ‘the show must go on,’ ” says Royce. 

Lopez, who injured his shoulder at a show in January, felt that there was a lack of clarity around the steps he was supposed to follow after being injured.  

“They don’t give you an actual process to follow, and it feels like they just don’t care,” he says.  

Lopez is featured in a TikTok video of a strike holding a sign that says, “Resistance is Feudal.”  

When asked how long they anticipate the strike to last, Zapcic, Royce, and Lopez all say, “As long as it takes.”  

The next bargaining session between Medieval Times and the MT Performers Union is scheduled for later this month.  

“Some people say, ‘Just go find another job,’ but it doesn’t feel right to leave this for the next person,” says Royce. “And I don’t want another job; I like my job here, but we need to be treated better.”