A pair of Medieval Times knights from the company’s Toronto castle were headed to Southern California earlier this week when their inter-kingdom travel apparently hit a snag.
The two knights and a third Medieval Times worker were turned away by the Department of Homeland Security because they lacked visas to work in the U.S., according to an employee at the Toronto castle who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.
The Canadians were apparently on their way to the dinner-theater chain’s castle in Buena Park, California, where workers have been on strike since Feb. 11. With many of the castle’s regular performers on the picket line, the work stoppage has forced the company to fly in knights and cast members from elsewhere to keep its show schedule on track.
The union representing the Buena Park workers, the American Guild of Variety Artists, accused the company of flouting immigration law in an effort to undermine the strike. The union said in a statement that it had received “confirmation” about the incident involving the Canadians, but declined to elaborate.
“Medieval Times has been bringing in scab performers from their other castles to keep the show going,” the union said. “They have attempted to illegally import ‘knights’ from their Toronto, Canada castle.”
Medieval Times, which has nine U.S. castles and the one in Canada, did not respond to a request for comment.
A spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which is part of DHS, said the agency would not discuss a particular case for privacy reasons. “If a traveler is presenting themselves for employment in the U.S., they would need to obtain the appropriate visa,” the spokesperson said in an email.
According to the employee at the Toronto castle, the Canadians en route to Buena Park had brought some of their gear to the U.S. and told DHS officers they were in the country for training.
The Medieval Times workers in Buena Park unionized last November, following their fellow performers at the Lyndhurst, New Jersey, castle, which unionized five months earlier. Medieval Times tried to discourage both groups from organizing, and initially hired an anti-union consultant at the cost of $3,200 a day to combat the campaign in New Jersey.
Workers at the two castles are now negotiating their first contracts, which can be a notoriously difficult process. The Buena Park employees walked off the job last month accusing Medieval Times of bargaining in bad faith and trying to silence them on social media.
The company previously sued the union alleging trademark infringement over the name the workers had adopted, Medieval Times Performers United, and its Middle Ages-themed logo. More recently, the company appears to have gotten the Buena Park union’s TikTok account banned following an intellectual property complaint, prompting the February walkout.
The strike includes knights, squires, queens and other members of the show cast. The union said more than half the workers in the bargaining unit chose to go on strike, though others have opted to cross the picket line and continue working, particularly those who work in the stables.
Knights who are trained to perform dangerous jousting and combat stunts and available to replace striking workers aren’t exactly in abundant supply these days. As HuffPost reported last month, Medieval Times struggled to keep its show on track immediately following the walkout, substituting a horse trainer for one of the show’s knights.
The trainer rode out of the arena before the combat portion of the program began.