Telemundo announced on Wednesday, March 8, that its actors have voted to unionize with SAG-AFTRA. The decision is a victory during a concerning time for unions and for Latinos in the U.S. After a January decision by the National Labor Relations Board that ordered the vote to proceed the vote tally was 91 to 21 (or 81 percent to 19 percent) that were sent out on February 7. Voting eligibility was restricted to those who had worked at least a certain number of days on Telemundo’s telenovela programs last year.

Florida-based Telemundo, which was acquired by NBCUniversal in 2001, is the largest employer of Spanish-language performers in the United States, providing work for hundreds of actors on its programs.

The vote is a victory for SAG-AFTRA, which has been trying for years to extend union benefits to actors who work on Telemundo’s popular shows.

“We want to renormalize the ecosystem in Spanish language media,” SAG-AFTRA national executive director David White said in a statement. “We see this as a watershed moment [that] means that performers in Spanish language media will have a set of protections that reflect established industry standards for the first time.”

The timing of the vote against the current societal and political climate is undeniable. “It’s a really strong statement at a time that’s really challenging in our country,” said union president Gabrielle Caerteris. “United we are stronger.”

The collective bargaining agreement is intended to primarily be aimed at covering telenovela performers, including actors, guest stars, dancers and stunt workers, according to Susan Davis, union’s counsel.

Among the points of negotiation will be benefits, overtime pay and residual payments. “We have every reason to be optimistic,” said Davis.

In addition, NBCUniversal has stated that Telemundo would start offering healthcare and retirement benefits to performers starting in 2017, but declined to elaborate.

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