Q: Is there really a significant difference in what SAG-AFTRA members earn under the Commercials Contract and non-members who work non-union productions?
A: Yes. On average, you need to work 10 non-union commercials to earn the same as one union commercial. Non-members earn far less than their union counterparts. In a 2014 survey by SAG-AFTRA of non-member performers working on commercials, about 68% earned $5,000 or less per year; 81% earned less than $10,000. Only 5% earned over $50,000.
Click here to see information comparing union to non-union commercials.
Q: I’m eligible to join SAG-AFTRA, but I’ve remained non-union. At what point in my career should I join?
A:Are you serious about your career? Are you auditioning on union projects? Have you landed at least one principal or three background roles? If you can answer “yes” to those three questions, then it’s time to join SAG-AFTRA. For someone who wants a serious career, staying non-union only means being exploited longer. Every professional performer who remains in the non-union talent pool undercuts the livelihood and work opportunities of all professional performers.
Click here to see information on how to join.
Q: I’m a SAG-AFTRA member, but I’m tempted to take a non-union commercial job to make ends meet. Why is that a bad thing? I’m just trying to earn a living.
A: Non-union work undercuts the union’s ability to negotiate the best contracts possible for you. If non-union producers can hire the best in the business for next to nothing, they have no incentive to go union. Additionally, non-union work allows producers to pay less and avoid paying residuals and retirement benefits. It also subjects you to longer unpaid work hours and potentially hazardous working conditions. And when you work off the card and run into problems, the union can’t help you because the commercial wasn’t produced under the SAG-AFTRA contract. Working off the card not only contributes to the growth of non-union work, but it puts your membership in jeopardy. Under the union’s Global Rule One, members must work under contract. Consequences for working off the card range from fines to suspension to expulsion from the union.
Q: What are the benefits of working under a SAG-AFTRA contract?
A: Working under SAG-AFTRA contracts gets you residuals, access to health insurance and retirement benefits, timely payment and safe working conditions. Click here to see information on the advantages of SAG-AFTRA membership.
Q: I’m an agent/a manager. What impact does it have on me if my clients work non-union productions?
A: SAG-AFTRA Commercials Contracts are still growing, totaling $1 billion of income for professional performers per year. Since performers are paid significantly less for non-union work, agents and managers earn less too. Union commercials can easily pay 10 times more than non-union spots. Even if an agent gets 40% commission on a non-union job, they’ll still earn less than the standard 10% commission on a union commercial. Additionally, booking non-union violates the union’s agency franchise agreements.
Q: How do residuals work for performers in non-union commercials?
A: Non-union commercials don’t pay residuals. Additionally, not only do you undermine your opportunity to earn residuals you also undermine your future when you work non-union. For example, if you work on a non-union beer commercial, it could run forever without further payment. Since your face will be perpetually associated with that product, you might never be able to do a union commercial for any beverage — ever! If you work on a union beer commercial, the advertiser needs to continue to pay you to keep you from doing a spot for a competing beer company.
Q: What are some other advantages to being a member of SAG-AFTRA?
A: With a SAG-AFTRA card, you’re recognized by producers, casting directors, agents, managers and directors as a true professional. Top agents and managers prefer to represent SAG-AFTRA members. Additionally, as a member you are part of a collective voice, shaping your future through participation in the decision-making process at a local and national level. And the union always has your back – from contract negotiation and enforcement to lobbying on issues that impact your life and career.
Click here to see information on the advantages of SAG-AFTRA membership.