In a historic election, performers employed on Spanish-language Telemundo telenovelas have voted to be represented at the bargaining table by SAG-AFTRA. The vote was 91-21 in favor of unionization, and union officials say it’s the first time in 65 years a group of actors at a major TV network have sought an NLRB-sanction unionization election. The new bargaining unit will cover actors, stunt performers, singers, and dancers working on telenovelas produced in the U.S.
Union officials called the vote “a momentous step toward ending the double standard that has existed for decades” between Spanish-speaking performers at the NBCUniversal-owned network and their English-speaking colleagues at NBC. Telemundo currently employs some 500 performers on the more than 100 telenovela episodes it produces each year, mostly in Miami.
“I congratulate Telemundo performers and welcome them to our family of actors and professionals,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris. “This vote sends a powerful message of hope and solidarity at a critical moment in the history of our union and of the creative community. Regardless of the language we speak, we can all unite to improve conditions for performers working professionally in our industry. Telemundo performers have laid a foundation that will improve lives for generations to come.”
“Voting to join SAG-AFTRA under these circumstances required tremendous courage,” said David White, SAG-AFTRA’s national executive director. “I want to whole-heartedly congratulate Telemundo performers for their collective effort and I welcome them to our worldwide professional family. We know this vote also will help Telemundo grow and flourish and we look forward to negotiating with them to achieve a fair first contract for our members.”
A spokesperson for Telemundo said that while the network “is disappointed with this result, we remain committed to all of our employees and will move forward with the negotiation process after the election results have been certified by the NLRB. We continue to be dedicated to making Telemundo a great place to work and to Telemundo’s long-term success.”
Saying that the union will meet with performers in the coming weeks to discuss contract proposals surrounding issues of fair pay, residuals, benefits and on-set safety measures, union officials say that “this election also signals the union’s commitment to continue organizing on behalf of all Spanish-language media in the United States.”
“Unity of mind and spirit makes us all stronger,” said actor Edward James Olmos. “Move with clarity of purpose and stay strong. Sí se puede.”
“Very proud of all those who took a step forward towards equality and the fundamental right of being represented by SAG-AFTRA,” said actor Luis Guzman. “In unity y siempre p’alante mi gente!”
“I am proud of my fellow actors for taking this bold step that puts us on a path toward equality in the entertainment industry,” said actor Pablo Azar. “We are making history today, and we look forward to Telemundo’s continued success as we work together toward changes and equality in the industry.”