I'm a Disneyland performer — I work hard for not enough money. Now we're unionized, I'm feeling hopeful.

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Mai Vo, a Disneyland performer, in a composite image with Disneyland in Anaheim, California.Courtesy of Mai Vo; Jae C. Hong/APDisneyland performers voted over the weekend to unionize with the Actors' Equity Association.Mai Vo, a performer at the theme park, was part of the union push.She told BI that in the past her eye was stained by a costume, and her colleagues struggle with low pay.Mai Vo began her career as a lookalike performer at Disneyland in 2004. She returned to the role in 2021.In September 2022, she became involved in Magic United, culminating in an overwhelming vote by the Anaheim-based performers last week in favor of unionizing.This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.I realized that people felt unhappy at the happiest place on earth, which didn't make sense to me.Initially, I was just seeing things that affected my colleagues: costume pieces that hurt them and being told that they needed to go out and perform anyway.I'm doing partner work with another performer, a female who may weigh less than 100 pounds. Her costume includes a four-pound weight strapped to her back near her tailbone.I don't understand why it has to be so heavy or why it's attached with just a waist strap instead of a harness. This is something we need to monitor, as it could cause injury over time.My costume stained my eyeballI have my own injury from a costume, which involved wearing sclera black contact lenses.If I lift my eyelid, you can still see a gray stain around my eyeball.When I show this to others, it really shocks some people, and it certainly doesn't make me feel very pretty.I feel fortunate that it was just cosmetic and didn't leave me with vision damage, but I could still be injured by something else.I feel like I've been relatively unscathed, but people around me haven't been, and that hurts.Disneyland performers often push through pain and work really, really hard.'Financial independence would be nice'I've seen colleagues work extra hard, doing overtime and working six-day weeks just to survive in Southern California.If I had to live on my own, I don't know if I'd survive on that salary.I live at home, about 15 minutes from Disneyland, which is very fortunate. But living with my family as an adult isn't always easy.Financial independence would be nice.For many Disneyland performers, this is their dream job. They often say, "This is my dream job. I'm here, but I'm struggling."That's really sad.'We get to create magic for guests'However, there are great aspects of this job — we get to create magic for guests, which is unique.As a lookalike performer, I aim to create change in the world one person at a time, whether a child or an adult.I typically have 45 to 75 seconds with guests, and in these fleeting moments, I try to teach them something historical or something about culture or values.That could make a difference in the world, so I might as well try.Visitors follow Mickey Mouse for photos at Disneyland in Anaheim, California.Jae C. Hong/APThe push for unionization was driven by several factors, including a shift in opinion on unions across the US.I also think people in the Characters and Parades department began to see their peers speaking up, saying things they'd been too scared to say before because Disney can be scary.I'm hoping that people maybe just got inspired to be brave, finally.Since we voted to unionize, I've felt less unhappy because I've put my energy into doing something about it. I'm using every talent I can think of to steer this group toward a better working environment.It makes me happy to support my colleagues and listen to them.I'm also just happy to perform.Read the original article on Business Insider

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