Actors union lines up political support for Telemundo organizing drive

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (PAI) – SAG-AFTRA, the top union for actors, is lining up political and community support for its organizing drive at Miami-based Telemundo, one of the nation’s leading Spanish-language networks.

The local political advisory committee includes Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jose Diaz and new United Teachers of Dade President Karla Hernandez-Mats. UT-Dade is a joint AFT-NEA affiliate. SAG-AFTRA launched its drive several months ago.

At issue, a very basic difference: NBC-Universal owns Telemundo and the union’s contract with the large conglomerate for its NBC workers, most if not all English-speakers, includes such basics as network residuals payments to the actors, and health care coverage.

But the unorganized actors at Telemundo don’t get either residuals or health care. They also don’t get guaranteed wage minimums or meal breaks. And they don’t get respect on the job. SAG-AFTRA calls the differences “a double standard for Spanish-language television.” Thus the organizing drive, #SAGAFTRAUNIDOS.

“NBC-Universal-owned Telemundo is the largest employer of Spanish-language talent in the United States, producing television content for audiences around the world,” the union explains on its Telemundo campaign website. “Telemundo Studios in Florida produces scripted programming, including some of the most watched telenovelas in recent years.

“Unfortunately, NBC-Universal is perpetuating a double standard for performers between its English-language programming produced for NBC and its Spanish-language programming for Telemundo.

“While performers for NBC enjoy the benefits of working under a SAG-AFTRA contract, performers for Telemundo are subjected to a much lower standard, lacking in many of the basics that are standard in English-language television,” due to no union contract.

“Despite Telemundo’s bravado as a champion of diversity, inclusion and empowerment for the Hispanic American community, the company’s actions behind the scenes tell a much different story,” SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris said on August 3 in unveiling the union’s political advisory committee at an event in the Miami suburb of Coral Gables.

“In addition to treating its Spanish-language talent as second-class citizens, Telemundo has actively employed tactics to dissuade talent from obtaining union protections. SAG-AFTRA strongly opposes such tactics, and I speak for concerned performers and citizens across the country when I say that we stand with Telemundo performers facing this injustice.”

“If Telemundo hopes to position itself as the empowering voice of the U.S. Hispanic community for years to come, the unfair double standard must end,” added SAG-AFTRA Executive Director David White. A Telemundo spokesperson claimed their salaries and working conditions – omitting benefits-are competitive with other Hispanic media.

Commissioner Diaz wants to see Telemundo keep growing, but it must cover “all elements of the industry,” including workers. “I see myself as a bridge between all parties so that together this industry becomes even more prosperous for our local economy,” he explained.

Latin American actors come to Miami to act in Telemundo productions, but the low pay, long hours and lack of residuals make it difficult for them to thrive there, the union says. “We are actors because we have a passion and a love for the craft, but the current environment does not allow us to grow in this space,” Christian de la Campa, who starred in recent Telemundo productions, told the union. “As such, we think it’s important to provide a solid platform from which future generations of professional Spanish-language actors can successfully build from and succeed in the United States.”

The same day as the kickoff rally, the AFL-CIO announced Carteris as the newest member of the labor federation’s executive council. She’s the second performing arts union chief on the council, joining IATSE’s Matthew Loeb. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka lauded Carteris as “a long-time union activist who is not afraid to stand up and fight for what’s best for her fellow actors.” Carteris fills the vacant seat held by her predecessor, Ken Howard, who died in March.

Photo: SAG-AFTRA


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Press Associates Union News Service provides national coverage of news affecting workers, including activism, politics, economics, legislation in Congress and actions by the White House, federal agencies and the courts that affect working people. Mark Gruenberg is Editor in chief and owner of Press Associates Union News Service, Washington, D.C.

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