Times Square characters want to unionize - FOX 32 News Chicago

Times Square characters want to unionize

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NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

Times Square is quickly becoming the costume capital of the world. They seem to be everywhere. City officials have said they want to crack down, but now the people who wear the costumes also want to take action and organize to protect their jobs.

You know them as Elmo, Cookie Monster and Woody, but the people who wear these costumes decided to take on a new name: Association of Artists United for a Smile New York City.

About 60 of the costume-wearing workers held a meeting organized by immigration advocacy group La Fuente to talk about forming a union.

Organizer Alex Gomez says the goal is to clean up the characters' image in the wake of growing complaints.

The last few weeks have seen at least 5 times square characters arrested on charges including aggressive solicitation and disorderly conduct. Among them was a Spider-Man caught on tape allegedly punching a police officer.

The incidents led the NYPD to circulate a flier telling tourists tipping is optional.

Times Square Alliance President Tim Tompkins says whether or not the characters form their own union, the city needs to implement regulations.

A bill is in the works that would require the characters to undergo background checks and wear photo id.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has expressed support. But some of the characters say they just want to be left alone to please tourists and collect their tips.

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