The TV sitcom "Will & Grace" got a shout-out from U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez on Saturday morning.
In a speech at the inaugural SAG-AFTRA National Convention, Perez praised the newly formed union for helping to sway public opinion in support of the rights of the gay and lesbian community in such shows as the NBC comedy "Will & Grace."
"When I see the work you have done in the industry to address issues of equality, I'm so grateful to you,'' Perez told crowd of more than 350 delegates gathered at the J.W. Marriott at L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles. "Vice President Joe Biden was right when he pointed out, we wouldn't gotten so far without 'Will & Grace.'"
The topic of equal rights has been important for SAG-AFTRA. A study released Friday at the convention found that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender actors continue to face discrimination when looking for work, though opportunities are increasing. About a third of those who responded to the survey by UCLA's Williams Institute and the entertainment union said that directors, casting directors and producers may be biased against LGBT performers.
Perez congratulated the union members for their decision to form SAG-AFTRA in spring, when the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists voted to merge, creating the largest entertainment union in Hollywood with more than 165,000 members.
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"There's an old saying there is strength in numbers,'' Perez said. "As you embark on this remarkable journey together as one, the fact of the matter is, people can't play you off against each other anymore-- that's really important."
Perez also called on union members to help sell the Affordable Care Act. The Obama administration is seeking help from artists and entertainers to promote the healthcare law and get at least 7 million Americans enrolled in the next six months. But House Republicans are attempting to halt the healthcare law as a condition for keeping the government funded beyond a midnight Monday deadline.
"We need your help to get the word out and to counter the misinformation that is out there," he said.
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