Labor Board Orders SAG-AFTRA Unionization Vote at Telemundo
It’s a big step that could lead to union representation for Spanish-speaking actors.
The National Labor Relations Board on Monday affirmed a hearing officer’s decision that orders a unionization election for actors at Comcast-owned Telemundo, it was announced by SAG-AFTRA. The decision marks a significant step forward in the union’s campaign to organize and represent Spanish-speaking performers who — unlike their English-speaking counterparts at sister network NBC — do not receive union protections, residuals or benefits.
The decision, rendered by the Board’s Florida-based regional director, is subject to appeal before or after the election, which will be conducted by secret mail ballot beginning Feb. 7 and ending March 8. Calling it a “historic vote,” the union said that the case “marks the first time in 65 years that actors at a major television network have taken a vote to the NLRB.” If a majority of the eligible actors voting say yes, Telemundo will be obligated to negotiate with SAG-AFTRA, absent a successful appeal.
“We are excited to have the opportunity to vote and create a working environment that is fair for everyone in our industry” said Katie Barberi, an actor with lead and supporting roles in 20 telenovelas. “We are proud of Telemundo’s success, and we believe SAG-AFTRA representation will make it an even better network in the future.”
The company countered with a statement as well. “We are proud of the success we have achieved together with our talent through the direct relationship we have enjoyed with them,” said a Telemundo spokesperson. “Since SAG-AFTRA first approached us about a year ago, we have invited them to ask for an NLRB election. We are pleased the union now has done this, so that our talent will be able to make a decision for themselves on whether to be represented. As the largest production facility producing Spanish-language, long-format scripted programming in the US, we have created hundreds of high-value jobs for Spanish-language talent and are committed to making Telemundo a great place to work for them and all our employees.”
According to the NLRB decision, the eligible actors — or “bargaining unit,” in labor law parlance — are “All ‘elenco estelar’ (main cast actors), including ‘protagonistas’ (protagonists), ‘antagonistas’ (antagonists), and ‘principales’ (supporting actors), guest stars, ‘figurantes’ (day players), singers, dancers, and stunt persons on scripted dramatic programing produced in the United States.”
Those persons must have worked in such positions on at least 15 working days during a one-year period, or for at least five working days during a one-year period on at least two productions. Excluded are “all other employees, background performers (extras), stunt coordinators, puppeteers, airline pilots, guard and supervisors.”
The union’s website at sagaftraunidos.org has additional information and a list of supporters that includes Alec Baldwin, Rosario Dawson, Susan Sarandon, Andy Garcia, Chris Rock, Kate del Castillo, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jaime Camil, Rita Moreno, Scarlett Johansson, Zoe Saldana and Bryan Cranston.
“This vote is about equity, fairness and the fundamental rights of Spanish-speaking actors in this industry and in our country,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris. “We have given Telemundo performers our full support as they take this courageous step and we look forward to welcoming them to our family of 160,000 media and entertainment professionals.”
Updated 1/25/2017 3:55 a.m. with Telemundo statement.