Job of the Day: Costumed Character in Times Square

The people who dress up as Elmo in Times Square (they are legion) are organizing! If you’ve found yourself laughing a bit as you dart between muppets on crowded sidewalks around 42nd St. and Broadway recently, you may have noticed some new signage put up by the NYPD. The signs let tourists now that photos with the costumed characters are free, and tipping them is optional. This has meant a real loss for the people behind the costumes, who make their livelihood from those tips.

As the New York Daily News reports, they’re organizing in response to the informational campaign as well as a legislative proposal, which is backed by the police commissioner, that would force the characters to register with the city.

“We are here out of necessity,” Claudia Arias, 22, who was dressed as Catwoman, said Monday. “We need to unite so people can see that this is our legitimate way of supporting our families.

About 50 of the characters are set to meet Tuesday with representatives of immigrant-advocacy group La Fuente to talk about organizing for better treatment.

It could be the first step toward their long-term goal of forming a labor group similar to those that represent taxi drivers or freelancers, organizers told the Daily News.

Sure it’s a hilarious visual, but a really weirdly interesting and confusing labor issue. Does a sign in Times Square announcing that photos with the characters are free make it sound like these characters are some kind of service provided by the city? Is it “free” just because the police declare it to be?

Do you need a license to dress up in a funny outfit and wander around in a public space, taking photos with strangers for tips?

There are a bunch of Elmo costumes on Alibaba, some more bootleg than the next, ranging from between $100-$300. Not bad as far as startup costs go. Maybe we should do some investigative journalism, get Mike Dang into a Big Bird costume and see what we find out.

Photo via janoma