The National Labor Relations Board has given the greenlight for performers at Telemundo to vote on whether they want to be represented by SAG-AFTRA in contract negotiations – a major first step in SAG-AFTRA’s campaign to unionize the Spanish-language network.
The union, which has accused the NBCUniversal-owned network of paying its Spanish-language performers less than NBC pays its English-language actors, petitioned the NLRB for just such a vote last month.
The election marks the first time in 65 years that actors at a major television network have taken a vote to the NLRB. In a statement, the union said that “a simple ‘yes’ majority will allow Telemundo performers to negotiate for fair pay, residuals, benefits and on-set safety measures – basic protections that NBCUniversal currently extends only to its English-speaking performers at NBC.”
Said SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris: “This vote is about equity, fairness and the fundamental rights of Spanish-speaking actors in this industry and in our country. 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.”
Said Katie Barberi, who has appeared in 20 telenovelas: “We are excited to have the opportunity to vote and create a working environment that is fair for everyone in our industry. We are proud of Telemundo’s success, and we believe SAG-AFTRA representation will make it an even better network in the future.”
In September, after accusing Telemundo of treating its Spanish-language talent like “second-class citizens,” the union signed the network’s Latin American Music Awards to a union contract. It was the first nationally broadcast awards show produced by Telemundo to be covered by a SAG-AFTRA agreement and marked a major breakthrough in the union’s campaign to organize the network’s on-air talent.
In a statement, Telemundo says it welcomes the vote. “We are proud of the success we have achieved together with our talent through the direct relationship we have enjoyed with them. 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 U.S., 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.”
The NLRB-administered vote, which begins February 7 and ends March 8, will be conducted by secret ballot mailed to eligible Telemundo performers.