The Actors in Target's Anti-Union Video: A "Liberal" and a Union Member

Last month, we showed you the newest internal anti-union training video that Target uses to indoctrinate its employees. What do the actors in the video—one of whom is a union member—have to say for themselves? We asked them.

The video, you'll recall, features "Dawn" and "Ricardo," two Target mouthpieces who just want to share the myriad horrors of unionization with their fellow team members. It turns out their first names, at least, are real. The Minnesota-based company found two Minnesota-based actors for their video: "Dawn" is played by Dawn Brodey, and "Ricardo" is played by Ricardo Vazquez. We contacted both of them to find out why they decided to appear in an anti-union corporate film.

Ricardo Vazquez's agent, Susan Wehmann, told us that Vazquez (in connection with his theater work) is a member of Actor's Equity Association, a union representing stage actors. AEA communications director Maria Somma told us that "We are a proud direct affiliate of the AFL-CIO and support all workers' rights to join a union," but that "We do not discipline members for the content of their performances." Wehmann told us that Vazquez is not yet a member of the Screen Actor's Guild, but added "Ironically, these two actors used this video to earn their SAG cards." (Update: the preceding quote was contained in an email chain with Wehmann but was not written by her. It was misconstrued as a quote from her, and should not be attributed to her.) She also said that "I would like to point out that the Target internal video that you obtained, in no way reflects his personal morals."

If we get a comment from Ricardo himself, we will add it here.

UPDATE: We received the following statement from Ricardo Vazquez.

1. I am an actor that was hired as an independent contractor to relay Target's position on union membership to its internal team members. I am not an employee of Target or a knowledgeable Target team member and my personal beliefs on union membership are not present in this video. As an actor you are required to portray a variety of different characters, ideas, agendas, and morals that rarely reflect your own personal belief system. I may be asked to portray a murderer, rapist, drug dealer, drunk, thief , ect but this doesn't mean I personally believe these things are right. It is easy to create a narrative around Dawn or myself, but ultimately neither of us are represented in this video- we are actors, not Target.

2. I am not a union member for Film/TV, but I am a member of Actors' Equity for theater. I personally believe in protection for workers in all cases- whenever I am asked by an artist if they should join a union I tell them yes. It is there to protect you. I believe everyone deserves protection.

3. This job was taken in 2011-2012 when I had just begun working as an actor in Minneapolis. I was developing a relationship with Wehmann Agency Models and Talent and was auditioning for numerous clients in Minneapolis. When I was hired by Target for this industrial video there were a number of factors that played into my decision making: 1. I wanted to build a positive relationship with this new agency, 2. I was breaking into a new city and I wanted to establish a professional reputation as accountable and hard-working, and 3. Target is a top client in Minneapolis and hundreds of actors/models work for them every year in print, commercial, voice over, and industrial videos. In any career you have to balance your personal desires with every job opportunity. When I was new to Minneapolis I felt I couldn't afford to let my personal feelings impact the success of my career or my newly formed relationship with the agency. Now in 2014 I'm more established, which gives me some control over what kind of contracts I will and will not do- but this remains a privilege, not a standard for most actors.

Dawn Brodey, whose character in the video warns that unions would destroy Target's fabled "fast, fun and friendly culture," sent us the following thoughts on her role in the video, in response to our questions:

This video was shot in 2011 and I saw it for the first time on Gawker last week. I did not receive a copy from Target when it was completed because - for reasons I suspect are fairly obvious at this point - they keep such materials fairly close to the chest.

  • Are you a member of any union, acting or otherwise?
No - I wasn't when the video was shot and I'm not now. In fact, the production company hired me via a local talent agency that is called 'Non-Union Talent Service'- NUTS for short.
  • Do you agree with the political positions espoused in the Target video?
Being a non-union actor doesn't mean I am an 'anti-union' actor. However, while I am big-picture pro-union and a political liberal, Target is within it's rights to produce a video which discourages their employees from joining one.
  • Why did you decide to do the video, and how much were you paid?
In the small-market professional acting world, we are often hired to work on in-house videos and live events for all varieties of corporations and entities.

Vegetarian actors have to decide if they'll work for Butterball. A feminist has to decide if she'll work for Maxim...And being an actor in these situations isn't the same dilemma as it may be for other employees who object to the subject their employers espouse. It isn't just about giving your time to an organization or a issue you may personally disagree with - it is to give your face and your voice to it. For an actor it's more intimate, the stakes are higher... sometimes Gawker readers call you names, for example.

People hate, deeply, over this issue and I think it is historically justified outrage. I - a non-union actor in the mid-west, however, am not a great target (he-hem) of that outrage.

All that being said - I didn't know the subject of the video until after I was offered the role. I may or may not have auditioned if I had known what it was - but 'not going for a job' and 'refusing a job' are two different things. The video - although 'cheesy' as you call it - was not incendiary. As a non-union actor, on what ground did I have to throw down my script and storm off set? As it stood I just felt sorta' gross when I got home and hoped I'd never see it...

As for the pay - I'm not going to give you the specific amount. However to give some perspective that may translate both nationally and virtually - it was a little over a month's salary for a two-night shoot.

Thank you for giving me a chance to give my two-cents. May the vitriol be tempered...

Target's previous anti-union training video, which we published in 2011, also used unionized actors.

[Image via and via]