The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists labor unions representing onscreen talent in Hollywood. They are trying to merge after years of budding heads within the industry. SAG covers principal actors and background talent. AFTRA covers radio, television, stunt people, voice over actors, television announcers and singers. When the unions started, television did not exist and all of the other areas were separate from one another. Now, actors perform in television, film, voice over and online creating a confusing mess of dues and rules. When AFTRA began coving television, tv consisted of news shows. Now with cable programming, actors are on tv along with broadcasters, blurring the line between the two unions. With the advent of the internet and then webseries, no one has jurisdiction. To eliminate the confusion, the two unions are finally close to merging, creating one mega union. Ballots are being sent out in February to members of each union to vote on the merger, with an answer sometime in March. What will the new name be if the merger passes? The longest acronym ever: SAG-AFTRA.
How does this affect you? Dues will increase if you were part of one union before. However, if you are not part of the union, you can join through AFTRA’s “open door policy.” Anyone with $1,600 can join AFTRA right now, and if the proposed merger is voted through, then you will be grandfathered in and automatically become a part of SAG-AFTRA. If you wait until after the unions merge, then the three voucher rule still applies. The one issue still unresolved is pension and health plans, since both unions have very different rules.
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