Weeki Wachee Strike

Whereas the attraction saw many highs in the 1960s, it would see almost as many trials in the following decade. Starting in July of 1970, many of the mermaids, along with gift shop and landscaping employees, went on strike demanding better pay, vacation time, and insurance. During this strike, several mermaids continued to work. One in particular was singled out by the strikers: Shinko Agasofu, an accomplished swimmer in a ballet troupe in Tokyo, who secured a position as a mermaid earlier that year. Management at Weeki Wachee could not guarantee her a job without seeing her pass their entry tests, leading Shinko to travel to Florida on a tourist visa in March of 1970. After passing the tests, Weeki Wachee and Shinko started the process of securing her work visa. With the work visa application process still ongoing, Shinko decided not to join the strike. Only a few mermaids continued to work, including Bonnie Georgiadis and her daughter Genie Young.[1] In a misplaced effort to hurt Weeki Wachee's profits, one of the mermaids fighting for better pay reported Shinko to immigration as well as to the Internal Revenue Service. Shinko was deported in early July, at the same time that union employees declined Weeki Wachee's final offer and as Weeki Wachee started replacing striking mermaids.[2] Ultimately, several of the demands of the mermaids were met and many continued to work at the attraction after the strike. A proper work visa was obtained in December. However, Shinko lacked the funds to return to Florida. Mermaids raised money to pay for Shinko's travel expenses, allowing her to continue as a mermaid in May of 1971.[3] 

[1] Bonnie Georgiadis, interview by author, Tarpon Springs, FL, October 21, 2016.

[2] Author Unknown, “U.S. Ousts Non-Striking Mermaid,” Tampa Bay Times, July 9, 1970,  09 Jul 1970, 21 - Tampa Bay Times at Newspapers.com, accessed January 3, 2021.

[3] Times Correspondent, “Japanese Mermaid Returns,” Tampa Bay Times, May 23, 1971,  23 May 1971, 190 - Tampa Bay Times at Newspapers.com, accessed January 3, 2021.