The Buena Park dinner theater claimed in its Oct. 13, 2022 complaint that the workers — who refer to themselves on social media as Medieval Times Performers United — violated federal trademark laws by including ‘Medieval Times’ in the name of their organization.
The company said consumers could be confused into thinking Medieval Times was sponsoring or endorsing the union. But U.S. District Judge William J. Martini disagreed, calling that theory “entirely conclusory.”
“Consumers are not likely to believe” the two parties are endorsed by Medieval Times, Martini said.
The court said similar rulings were reached in prior cases and noted that Medieval Times didn’t provide any examples of consumers actually being confused. The court added that the MTPU logo was not “confusingly similar” to the Medieval Times logo.
About 30 queens, trumpet players, chancellors, knights and squires at the Buena Park castle voted in November to join the American Guild of Variety Artists, but they say management has consistently blocked their efforts to secure a “living wage” and provide improved safety measures.
Performers currently average $18 to $19 an hour but would like to see that boosted to $25 an hour to keep pace with the high cost of living in Southern California.
AGVA has filed several unfair labor practice charges against Medieval Times with the National Labor Relations Board. On Aug. 21, Region 22 of the board issued a complaint after concluding that four of the union’s charges against Medieval Times had merit.
The complaint alleges the company’s violations of federal labor law include terminating an employee because of his union activity, threatening employees in retaliation for union activity, refusing to bargain collectively and in good faith with the union and causing MTPU to be banned from TikTok by submitting a trademark infringement complaint.
A hearing before an administrative law judge regarding the charges is scheduled for Nov. 7.
Representatives with Medieval Times and attorney Daniel J. Sobol, who represents the company, could not be reached for comment.
Several other unfair labor practice charges against Medieval Times are still under investigation by the NLRB, including a charge that the trademark lawsuit was baseless and filed in retaliation for the performers’ union activities.
Erin Zapcic, a castle performer and strike captain with MTPU, said workers have long thought that Medieval Times’ trademark lawsuit was intended to intimidate employees and retaliate against anyone attempting to unionize.
“It was a very calculated decision on their part,” she said. “We’re glad that the court agreed with us.”
Susanne K. Doris, AGVA’s executive secretary-treasurer, said the dismissal will allow the union to continue its fight for fair wages, safe working conditions and respect in the workplace without the distraction of a lawsuit.
“The court recognized the absurdity of the company’s claim that the public wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between Medieval Times and the union that is advocating for Medieval Times workers,” Doris said in a statement. “AGVA welcomes the court’s decision.”
Nicholas J. Johnson, of Spivak Lipton LLP, which is representing AGVA and MTPU, said “we hope the court’s decision will deter other employers from trying to weaponize trademark law against workers and unions in the future.”
Striking SAG-AFTRA actors joined Medieval Times performers on the picket line Sunday as the strike by the dinner theater workers nears its eighth month.
Source: Orange County Register