June 13, 2016

The Unions – SAG / AFTRA


How do you join SAG? One of the ways you can join is by buying into AFTRA or through receiving a Taft Hartley waiver. How do you join AFTRA? AFTRA is the only union that you can literally “buy” into. You can show up to their offices and simply hand over a hefty wad of cash and sign up there and then. How much does it cost to join AFTRA? As of today’s date, the initiation fee in NY is $1300 plus minimum dues of $63.90. Keep in mind, if you join just before the 2nd dues-cycle you will be required to pay another $63.90. A grand total of $1427.80. After one year providing, you have some AFTRA jobs under your belt, you may be eligible then to join SAG. You can also join AFTRA by booking an AFTRA job.

The Taft Hartley waiver is basically a waiver that states that the producing company could use you and only you for the job. SAG can potentially contest this, but it is unlikely. Example, one lady did a voice-tag on a small commercial (radio/TV) campaign for the UK. Because some of the spots would be on TV the job fell into SAG territory. Now, it’s not always the case that just because your commercial/show was aired on TV that it is a SAG job. There are many things that apply, but most of all, there has to be a SAG contract for the job, which you will sign upon completion (more on contracts at a later date). So, for this lady, the production company and ad agency had to appeal to SAG by stating that, because she is an English actress and because the commercials would be aired in the UK and after 4 weeks of searching/casting for the role, in their opinion, she was the ONLY person for the job. SAG then reviewed the waiver request and invited him to join. The common belief is that at that point she now had 30 days where she could work on both non-SAG and SAG jobs before she fork out the whopping $2700 initiation fee to become a full-fledged SAG member. But, she learned, in reality, it is a wholly different story.

She waited 3 months before she could receive his letter from SAG congratulating her on her qualification to join. She was told by two agencies and fellow actors that she was as good as a SAG member when she got the Taft-Hartley waiver and that she was entitled to do as many SAG/non-SAG jobs in the following 30 days that she could get his hands on. And after the magic 30 days, she simply had to walk into their offices, give them a check and join. However, until that waiver is filed and acknowledged by SAG you are as good as NON-SAG. Period. And there is a GIANT backlog in the waiver filing department so it can take a very long time before they get ’round to yours. In his case 90 days!! Up until that point, she had been put on 1st refusal for 2 additional SAG jobs that she was sent out for by a very large and reputable talent agency who was under the impression that she was SAG. If she had booked those jobs, she would have had to file another Taft-Hartley waiver which would have made him look REALLY bad. In fact, it would have made him out to be a liar. Which she wasn’t. Just an actor who’d taken dodgy (yet legitimate) advice. What’s more, once you get said letter of congratulations, you will have to wait an additional 2 weeks or so before you are even able to go in and set up your membership. Therefore, when you finally get this holy grail of a SAG job you should carry yourself accordingly. Inform any and all industry folk of your PENDING SAG status, but be aware that if you book any other SAG work in this allotted time, the producers will have to file ANOTHER Taft-Hartley waiver for you. There will be no record of your pending “must-join” or “SAG-eligible” status until that waiver is filed by the appropriate offices. At which point, they will notify you by mail on how to set up an appointment to pay your dues and get your card, etc. So keep working to get any and all jobs just as before – when you did not have a Taft-Hartley waiver in the works. Pretend it never happened. It will save you a lot of bother.

And finally, due to any number of reasons – a high volume of actors in the city, backlogs, etc. – the folks down at the SAG offices can appear to be impatient. I can’t imagine how many times they hear from people who are not the real deal and who are looking for a way to fake it into the union. So, I’d strongly recommend you wait to contact them until you receive the letter in the mail stating that you are eligible (it WILL come, it just might take a while). It will guide you on how to set up your appointment with a SAG rep. You should keep in mind that these appointments can take up to two weeks to schedule. So, patience is the key!


– You book an SAG job and producers file a Taft-Hartley Waiver for you.

– When the waiver has been approved by SAG they will send you a confirmation and an appointment letter in the mail. **This can take months!!

– When you receive this letter, follow the directions pertaining to the appointment with a SAG representative. This appointment can take up to a month to book.

– In the meantime, continue on in your acting life as if nothing has changed. You are technically still non-union. Do alert agents and such that you are SAG status eligible/pending so that they know, but continue to go out for all the same union AND non-union jobs you can.


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