What Is An Actors Union?

By Darryl Green

  • Similar to most labor unions, an actor’s union is an organization that represents actors in show business, ensuring actors receive just pay, fair treatment and decent working conditions. Simply put, an actor’s union protects actors against exploitation and mistreatment.

    What Exactly Does An Actor’s Union Do?

    • An actor’s union sets the minimum amount in which an actor must be paid (scale).
    • An actor’s union determines the amount of time an actor is allowed to work each day, and the amount of money an actor is to be paid if the actor has to work longer than that time.
    • An actor’s union sets industry safety and working conditions for actors.
    • An actor’s union sets health care and retirement packages for actors.
    • Broadly, an actor’s union protects the rights, safety, health, careers, and payment of actors.
    • An actor’s union may also help members find work and training opportunities.

    What Is AFTRA? (aftra.org)
    AFTRA is an acronym that stands for the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, a labor union which represents actors who work in television and radio, as well as recording artists, announcers and newspersons. As with any labor union, AFTRA works to issues such as working conditions, pay rates, health benefits, pensions and other issues concerning the people they represent.

    What is the Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG)? (sag.org)
    The Screen Actor’s Guild is the union that primarily represents actors who perform in movies. Members of the Screen Actor’s Guild are issued a membership card, or SAG Card, as proof of membership and are directed to join SAG affiliated agencies, or agencies that have agreed to closely follow the SAG guidelines.
    Most actors join SAG through the Taft-Hartley Act, allowing them to work on a union production to earn their SAG Card.

    What Is The Actor’s Equity Association? (actorsequity.org)
    The Actors’ Equity Association, or Equity for short, is the union that primarily represents actors who perform in theatre. Formed in 1913, Equity is the oldest of all the major unions. It came along at a time when radio, television and film were in their infant stages and theatrical performance was most prominent. Equity was formed in response to the frequent exploitation and mistreatment of actors by Broadway Theater houses in the early part of the 20th century. Its founding helped set the stage for the other actor unions that followed.

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