Screen Actors Guild rules
The Screen Actors Guild rules (with the SAG card) have evolved since the Screen Actors Guild (based in Los Angeles, CA) was founded in 1933. A SAG card is an indication of membership in the SAG union; the design of the card (or at least the color scheme) has changed every six months in recent years.
- 1 SAG card details
- 2 Joining SAG
- 3 Member benefits and privileges
- 4 Notes
SAG card details
A SAG card was a wallet-sized membership card, and it was used to identify a particular SAG member. Typically, the top of the card had the title line "Screen Actors Guild" in a particular font, with the subtitle line:
- "Associated Actors & Artistes of America / AFL-CIO".
A logo emblem of the Screen Actors Guild (showing the masks of comedy/tragedy) also appears on some SAG cards. In recent years, dues have been split into two 6-month periods: May–October & November–April.
The rules for joining SAG-AFTRA are somewhat different from the old rules covering the former Screen Actors Guild. Under the old SAG rules a performer was eligible to join by meeting the criteria in any of the following three categories: principal performer in a SAG production, background performer (originally the "three voucher rule"), and one-year members of an affiliated union (with a principal role).
Any performer who worked in a principal or speaking role for a minimum of one day on a project (film, commercial, TV show, etc.) where the producer had signed a producer's agreement with SAG, and the performer was paid at the appropriate SAG daily, three-day, or weekly rate was then considered "SAG-Eligible." A SAG-Eligible performer was permitted to continue performing in any number of both SAG or non-SAG productions for a period of 30 days, during which that SAG-Eligible performer is classified as a "Taft-Hartley". After the 30-day Taft-Hartley period has expired, the performer was not permitted to work on any further SAG productions until the performer joined the Guild by: paying the initiation fee, paying the first half-year minimum membership dues, and agreeing to abide by the Guild's rules and bylaws. The SAG-Eligible performers did not lose their eligibility to join the Guild by choosing not to join the Guild immediately at the expiration of their Taft-Hartley period.
For years, SAG had the "three voucher rule". Formerly, after collecting 3 valid union vouchers for three separate days of work (after 25 March 1990), a background performer (an extra) could become SAG-Eligible; however, the vouchers were not acceptable proof of employment, and instead, proof had to be provided as either: "original paycheck stubs" or an "original activity print-out or report from the payroll company". SAG productions require a minimum number of SAG members be employed as background performers before a producer is permitted to hire a non-union background performer in their production. For television productions, the minimum number of SAG background performers is 19, for commercials the minimum is 40, and for feature films, the minimum is 50. Often, due to the uniqueness of a role, or constraints on the numbers of available SAG performers or last-minute cancellations, those minimums are unable to be met. When this happens, producers are permitted to fill one or more of those union spots with non-union performers. The non-union performer chosen to fill the union spot is then issued a union extra voucher for the day, and that non-union performer is entitled to all the same benefits and pay that the union performer would have received under that voucher. After collecting three valid union vouchers for three separate days of work, a non-union performer then becomes SAG-Eligible. The SAG-Eligible background performer may continue working in non-union productions and is not required to join the Guild before performing in another SAG production as a background performer. According to the FAQ on the SAG website, this "three voucher rule" is in the process of being phased out.
Member of an affiliated union
Members in good standing, for at least one year, of any of the other unions affiliated with the AAAA, and who have worked as a principal at least once in an area of the affiliated union's jurisdiction, and who had been paid for their work in that principal role, were eligible to join SAG.
Initiation fee and membership dues
Members who joined the former Screen Actors Guild in the Los Angeles, New York, or Miami SAG locals were assessed an initial fee to join the Guild of $2,277. All other SAG locals assessed initiation fees at a previous rate. Members from other locals who work in Los Angeles, New York, or Miami after joining were charged the difference between the fee they paid their local and the higher rate in those markets.
Membership dues were calculated and are due semi-annually, and are based upon the member's earnings from SAG productions. At the time SAG was dissolved into the new SAG-AFTRA the minimum annual dues amount was $116, with an additional 1.85% of the performer's income up to $200K. Income from $200K to $500K is assessed at 0.5%, and income from $500K to $1M is assessed at 0.25%. For the calculation of dues, there was a total earnings cap at $1M. Therefore, the maximum dues payable in any one calendar year by any single member is limited to $6,566.
SAG members who became delinquent in their dues without formally requesting a leave of absence from the Guild were assessed late penalties, and risked being ejected from the Guild and can be forced to pay the initiation fee again to regain their membership.
Global Rule One
The SAG Constitution and Bylaws stated that, "No member shall work as a performer or make an agreement to work as a performer for any producer who has not executed a basic minimum agreement with the Guild which is in full force and effect." Every SAG performer agrees to abide by this, and all the other SAG rules, as a condition of membership into the Guild. This means that no SAG members may perform in non-union projects that are within SAG's jurisdiction once they become members of the Guild.
Since 2002, the Guild pursued a policy of world-wide enforcement of Rule One, and renamed it Global Rule One. However, some actors, particularly those who do voices for anime dubs, were believed to have worked for non-union productions under pseudonyms. One prominent example is David Cross, who did voices for the non-union cartoon Aqua Teen Hunger Force (which was recorded in Atlanta, Georgia, which is a Right-To-Work state) under the pseudonym "Sir Willups Brightslymoore." He acknowledged performing for the show in an interview with SuicideGirls.com.
Member benefits and privileges
SAG contracts with producers contain a variety of protections for Guild performers. Among these provisions are: minimum rates of pay, first class airfare and travel insurance, adequate working conditions, strict safety requirements, special protection and education requirements for minors, arbitration of disputes and grievances, and affirmative action in auditions and hiring.
Standardized pay and work conditions
All members of the Guild agree to work only for producers who have signed contracts with SAG. These contracts spell out in detail the responsibilities that producers must assume when hiring SAG performers. Specifically, the SAG basic contract specifies: the number of hours performers may work, the frequency of meal breaks required, the minimum wages or "scale" at which performers must be compensated for their work, overtime pay, travel accommodations, wardrobe allowances, stunt pay, private dressing rooms, and adequate rest periods between performances.
The Producers Pension and Health Plans
By early 2013 though the unions themselves had merged, the Producers Pension and Health Plans, which are independent organizations, had not yet been merged with the AFTRA Health and Retirement System. Thus, performers who met the eligibility criteria of working a certain number of days or attaining a certain threshold in income derived from SAG productions could still join the Producers Pension and Health Plans offered by the former Guild, because the plans continued to operate independently. The eligibility requirements vary by age of the performer and the desired plan chosen (there are two health plans). There is also Dental, Vision, and Life & Disability coverage included as part of the two plans.
- "Ways to Join". SAG Official Website. 2009.
- "SAG card" (image), webpage: TA-card.
- "SAG & AFTRA PROPOSED TWO-YEAR EXTENSION OF THE COMMERCIALS" SAG.org, 2006, webpage: SAG-exten.
- Health BenefitTabs-Eligibility