Latinos, excluded from Hollywood, urged to support film and television work

For decades critics lamented the lack of Latinos in Hollywood, from the mailrooms of talent agencies to the titans of studios. And for decades, little has changed, even as Latinos have become the largest ethnic group in the industry’s home state of California.

Yet union leaders bracing for a potential strike of around 60,000 behind-the-scenes workers in film and television are recruiting Latinos, the heart of the state’s working class, for endorsement.

Many Latinos are embracing the International Alliance of Theatrical Employees (IATSE) in its fight for shorter hours, sustainable wages, fair digital pay and safer workplaces – despite the poor and murky track record of the union in hiring for diversity.

Screenwriter Crystal Kan draws pro-worker placards on union members’ cars during a rally at the Motion Picture Editors Guild IATSE Local 700 in Los Angeles, California, September 26, 2021.Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Washington-based Labor Council for the Advancement of Latin America (LCLAA) on Friday said in a statement that it supported IATSE’s candidacy: “We stand together in our fight to end the dangerous hours, unbearable wages and a lack of reasonable rest on the set. “

But its director of communications and policy, Pablo Stein, said the council, which influences labor and union policy for more than two million Latinos who are part of the AFL-CIO labor coordination group, is not letting IATSE get off the hook for what Variety sources have described as exclusion hiring driven by nepotism.

“As Latino trade unionists, we believe in the power of collective action and negotiation, and we are always keen to support our brothers and sisters who fight for decent working conditions and against corporate greed,” said he wrote. “At the same time, we recognize that discriminatory practices persist in the labor movement and are partly responsible for the under-representation of Latinos in the media industry.”

Actor Edward James Olmos also supports IATSE, Tweeter last month, “I hope you will be with us in this fight.”

Even though Latinos often make up one in four ticket buyers for blockbuster films and are “overrepresented in the daily viewer population” of films on digital platforms, according to the Cinema Association, IATSE has failed miserably to reflect them.

In July Variety published a diversity analysis among 21 California unions, most affiliated with IATSE, and found that 16.1 percent of members’ last names were Hispanic in a state that is almost 40 percent Latino. IATSE subsequently stated that it undertake an annual survey to determine the declared race and ethnicity of its members.

His the highest management positions compose a virtual wall of white men, with a few exceptions.

The organization did not respond to a request for comment. Its opponent in the potential labor action, the Alliance of Film and Television Producers (AMPTP), declined to comment.

Less than two weeks ago, U.S. Representative Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, unveiled a government accountability office report which revealed that from 2014 to 2019, Latin American representation in media, including news and Hollywood, remained virtually unchanged despite its growing population.

“Latinos are mostly invisible in the institutions that define the image and create the narrative of American society,” Castro said in a statement at the time.

Ana-Christina Ramón, co-author of the UCLA Annual Report Hollywood Diversity Report, in which Latinos haven’t gotten more than six percent of the leading movie roles on television since 2014, argued that Latinos can hold IATSE accountable and at the same time support him in his struggle with producers.

“Latinos can demand better access and more representation while advocating for safe working conditions and regular working hours, which seems to be at the heart of what IATSE is asking for,” she said by email.

She said rising wages can lift all communities.

“Better conditions for workers will stimulate the economy, as it will create investment in the filming area, and workers’ incomes will increase with less burnout and more retention,” Ramón said.

Union support has sometimes been a dilemma for the Latino community, which has nevertheless revived the power of work organization in a Los Angeles that was once fiercely anti-union.

Police unions, for example, have long fought against the accountability of officers, even though police shootings killed black Americans and Latinos at higher rates than other groups when their population size was taken into account.

But many agencies, including the Los Angeles Police Department, have also been transformed by Latinos. The LAPD badged force is now more than half Latino, and these officers have sometimes been able to jump into the middle class and middle pay well north of $ 100,000 without necessarily going to university.

That hasn’t happened in Hollywood, despite a pro-diversity chorus over the past decade.

The “under the line” jobs, much of the behind-the-scenes work in Hollywood, including set builders, are supposed to be relatively well paid and more accessible to those without a university degree.

This is a rare photo of the shrinking California dream for the working class in a state where the cost of living, including astronomical rents and house prices, has contributed to homelessness and enter the labor market without a university degree practically untenable.

But they are coveted and protected by the blue collar unions.

Kent Wong, director of the UCLA Labor Center, said they must become accessible to Latinos if the state declining middle class is to survive.

“These are strong middle class jobs with good benefits that can be a step forward,” he said. “I think it is in the interest of the Latino community to support the expansion of unionization.”

Christian Castro, spokesperson for the Los Angeles Federation of Labor, a heavily Latino AFL-CIO organization, said via email that an agreement between IATSE and producers “will benefit both current workers and all. future workers “.

“A collective agreement is historically one of the best tools to create pathways out of poverty for historically marginalized populations like our Black, Latino and LGBTQ populations,” he said.

Wong urged Latinos in the labor movement to put pressure on IATSE at this vulnerable time, when members’ authorization for what could be the biggest strike by Hollywood production workers since World War II could take place Until monday.

“We’ve seen the public outcry over the lack of actors of color,” Wong said. “Now is exactly the time to ensure that the diversity is not just in front of the camera but also behind the camera.”


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