The Ultimate Guide to SAG-AFTRA
(By AM Staff)
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It’s America’s largest union for actors. SAG-AFTRA represents over 160,000 actors and performers.
Get the facts about the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, why they merged, how to get join and how it all works in our guide to SAG-AFTRA.
First, some basics…
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Screen Actors Guild was formed in 1933 to protect and defend actors from what was perceived as exploitation by major studios in Hollywood.
The union that eventually became known as AFTRA was formed in 1937, after supplanting the Radio Equity and Radio Actors Guild to become the American Federation of Radio Artists (AFRA), and then merging with the Television Authority in 1952.
What does it mean to join SAG-AFTRA?
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Joining SAG-AFTRA means you are joining the largest union for actors in the United States. It consists of over 160,000 actors and other performers, including broadcasters, dancers and voice actors.
SAG-AFTRA is committed to ensuring safe working conditions for its members, along with fair wages and benefits. Members also enjoy a host of other perks, like discounts at local and national businesses.
Joining SAG-AFTRA also means making a commitment to Global Rule One (among other rules). This rule means you agree to not work on any project, anywhere in the world, that isn’t covered under a SAG-AFTRA agreement.
How much does SAG-AFTRA cost?
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The National Initiation Fee to join SAG-AFTRA is currently set at $3,000. However, this fee may be lower in some states.
All new members must pay this fee at the time of joining. This includes members living outside the US.
Additionally, new members are also responsible for paying semiannual base dues and half their work dues at the time of joining.
Semiannual base dues are currently set at $222.96. Work dues are calculated at 1.575, based on earnings made in the previous year, up to $750,000.
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A Taft-Hartley is the report that is filed with SAG-AFTRA after a SAG-AFTRA signatory producer hires an actor who does not currently belong to the union.
The company or casting director must provide an explanation for why the non-union actor was chosen for the job over a union actor. Once the report is successfully filed, the non-union actor becomes eligible to join SAG-AFTRA.
There are three primary ways an actor can become eligible to join SAG-AFTRA:
1) An actor can become eligible by being hired as a principal performer for a job that is covered under a SAG-AFTRA (or SAG or AFTRA) agreement.
2) An actor who has had qualifying employment in a union that is affiliated with SAG-AFTRA, can join.
3) An actor can join as a background actor, after accumulating 3 or more SAG-AFTRA vouchers.
What is a SAG-AFTRA Must-Join?
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A “Must-Join” is the label placed on actors who have surpassed the grace period (usually 30 days) for working on projects covered under a SAG-AFTRA collective bargaining agreement, as a non-union actor.
From that point forward, the actor is required to join SAG-AFTRA if they wish to continue working in SAG-AFTRA signatory projects.
What is a Right-to-Work State?
A right-to-work state is a state that forbids union security agreements. That means, companies are banned from requiring union membership as a condition of employment, hence the name “right-to-work”.
More specifically, in acting terms, a right-to-work state forbids employers, such as production companies, from requiring that an actor obtain union membership or to pay dues to an actor union, like SAG-AFTRA, either before or after being hired.
What is Financial Core (Fi-Core)?
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Financial core, or Fi-Core, is a legal designation or status that allows some actors to work in both union and non-union projects. It’s a highly controversial option with huge implications for both actors and unions.
SAG-AFTRA members are only allowed to work in the union’s signatory projects. They are not allowed to work in non-union projects. Those are only available to non-union actors. A Fi-Core status allows actors to work in both.