Disneyland character performers at Southern California park vote to unionize

Performers at the Disneyland Resort in Southern California who portray characters such as Mickey Mouse and Goofy voted to unionize with the Actors' Equity Association, the union announced, following a landslide vote that culminated over the weekend.

The union said Saturday that the performers voted 953-258 favoring unionization, clearing the 50% plus one margin needed to join. The National Labor Relations Board could certify the election within a week, if there are no challenges.

"These workers are on the front lines of the Guest experience; they're the human beings who create lifelong memories when your kids hug a character, or when your family watches a parade roll by the castle," Actors' Equity Association President Kate Shindle said in a news release.

Shindle said that the union would focus on improving employment benefits, working conditions, and job security when negotiating a first contract.

The union represents other performers under the Disney umbrella, including performers and stage managers at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and Disney Theater performers and stage managers on Broadway and national tours.

In a statement, the Walt Disney Company said that it would be premature for the company to comment on the results before they were certified but respects that the employees "had the opportunity to have their voices heard."

Where do unions stand now?

The union win in California comes after a mixed bag of results in the South that slowed organized labor momentum as the United Auto Workers won an organizing vote at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee but lost a vote at a Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 14.4 million wage and salary workers were a part of a union last year, a historically low rate in a year that saw the so-called "summer of strikes."

Almost 30% of all active union members lived in either California or New York, according to the agency.

Nearly 33% of employees working in education, training, and library occupations were represented by a union, the highest rate in the workforce. Police, firefighters, and security guards were a close second with nearly 32% represented by unions.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Disneyland character performers unionize after landslide vote