Spanish Broadcasting System is being sued by SAG-AFTRA over multiple allegations of unlawful firings and unfair wages. The union has filed six labor charges against the broadcaster, citing the firing of eight employees in “retaliation” for their union activities, while allegedly threatening to terminate six additional workers, according to documents filed with the National Labor Relations Board, as reported by the Los Angeles Daily News.
“They were treated as second-class citizens,” said Julie Gutman Dickinson, an attorney and partner at Bush Gottlieb, a law firm that represents SAG-AFTRA in the case before the NLRB. “This company is the most outrageous I have ever seen.” SBS officials did not respond to the newspaper’s repeated requests for comment.
Felix Castillo, known as DJ Mr. Boro, was an on-air talent at two SBS radio stations, when he and seven of his colleagues were reportedly fired in March. “They failed to pay the minimum wage when the minimum wage went up in L.A.,” Castillo told the newspaper. “At the concerts (live promotional events), we didn’t have meal or bathroom breaks. This employer takes advantage to get cheap and sometimes free labor.”
The labor dispute is set to foster more attention Tuesday, Aug. 29, when former SBS employees join local political and community leaders at a public forum to talk about their experience working at the Spanish-language broadcaster. Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu; Maria Elena Durazo, general vice president for immigration, civil rights of Unite Here; and Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, are slated to participate.
The legal tangle had its start last year after union representatives began negotiations with SBS employees, who said they wanted to join SAG-AFTRA because they were allegedly paid less than minimum wage, denied overtime, reimbursements, meal breaks and access to the bathroom during live promotional events and concerts, according to Gutman Dickinson: “They were misclassified as exempt when they were not exempt, and they were denied reimbursement, which violates California law.”
Then, in August 2016, SBS employees voted, 21 to 1, in favor of joining the union. But when SBS started bargaining with SAG-AFTRA about the terms of a contract, the broadcaster’s reps “showed up late for the meetings and took phone calls during negotiations, failing to bargain in good faith,” Gutman Dickinson said. And then, “SBS interrogated the employees about who supported the union. They were engaged in a full campaign of fear, threatening the employees that they would terminate them,” she added in the Los Angeles Daily News story.
In the following months, SBS made changes to its timekeeping system and health plans without giving the union notice and threatened workers with termination because of their support for the union, Gutman Dickinson said, all of which she stresses are violations of the California Law. And in March, SBS fired eight employees, “many of whom were strong union supporters,” the suit says.
When the NLRB receives charges and investigates complaints, the process can take from seven to 12 weeks, according to the NLRB website. If the board finds sufficient evidence to support charges, it encourages the parties to reach a settlement. If they fail to agree, the agency issues a complaint. That leads to a hearing before the board’s administrative law judge. The NLRB cannot impose any penalties, according to the website, but the judge may require the parties to return to the bargaining table or bring back to work unlawfully terminated employees.
Gutman Dickinson added, “You terminate eight employees for unionization and the rest of the workforce is scared. They’re violating the law, and we can’t let them to get away with it. SAG-AFTRA will not rest until there is justice at SBS.”
SBS officials declined to comment on the story.