Key Discussion Points

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Talk to your fellow members about the importance of solidarity, the benefits of membership and about our commercials organizing and recapture initiative. This effort will be a success if we all work together.

Here are some key points for discussions with members:

  • Your union is expanding work opportunities for all members who work in commercials, and SAG-AFTRA members are a critical piece of this multifaceted initiative. Its overall success is possible only if we remain unified, ensuring that non-union projects must make do with sub-par talent and don’t have access to the best in the business: our members.
  • Non-union work allows producers to pay less and avoid paying residuals and retirement benefits, and subjects performers to longer unpaid work hours and potentially hazardous working conditions.
  • Non-union work undercuts the union’s ability to negotiate the best contracts possible. If non-union producers can hire the best in the business for next to nothing, they have no incentive to go union. Working off the card contributes to the growth of non-union work.
  • As part of this initiative, SAG-AFTRA is increasing enforcement of Global Rule One, which states that members must work under union contracts. Consequences for working off the card include fines, suspension and expulsion from the union.
  • It’s important for members to help our initiative by joining the effort at or sending all information about non-union commercials to

Talk to your fellow members about the importance of solidarity, the benefits of membership and about our commercials organizing and recapture initiative.

This effort will be a success if we all work together.


There are performers who are eligible to join SAG-AFTRA, but remain non-union. 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. We need to talk to these performers at auditions, on set and in workshops or classes to counter harmful myths.

Here are some key points for discussions with pre-members:

  • Pre-members earn far less than their union counterparts. In 2014, the union surveyed pre-member performers who work on commercials. About 68% earned $5,000 or less per year; 81% earned less than $10,000. Only 5% earned over $50,000.
  • On average, you need to work 10 non-union commercials to earn the same as one union commercial.
  • Working under SAG-AFTRA contracts gets you residuals, access to health insurance and retirement benefits, timely payment and safe working conditions.
  • Working non-union undermines your future. 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.
  • If you want to be a professional performer, you shouldn’t do non-union work. It harms you and it harms your community. If you accept low wages and poor working conditions, advertisers will have no reason to use legitimate union contracts.
  • A payment plan and loan options are available to help new members pay their initiation fees. Call your local office. Loans are available through SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union at (800) 826-6946 or, in New York, at the Actors Federal Credit Union at (800) 2-ACTORS. PLEASE NOTE: The initiation fee and union dues are entirely tax deductible.


We know you value your relationship with talent agents and managers. Your success and theirs are one and the same, which means the member-driven commercials organizing and recapture initiative benefits everyone. Give them details about the project and let them know they can be part of the solution. By cooperating with SAG-AFTRA, your professional representatives can help us reclaim and expand commercials work opportunities.

Here are some key points for discussions with agents and managers:

  • Earnings under the SAG-AFTRA Commercials Contracts are still growing, totaling $1 billion of income for professional performers per year, with only a small decline in the number of union commercial jobs over the past nine years. However, with the growth of Internet and new media commercials, coupled with the massive increase in the number of TV channels, earnings should be increasing substantially more.
  • Reversing this trend and recapturing this work is a top priority for SAG-AFTRA.
  • Since performers are paid significantly less for non-union work, agents and managers earn less too. Most agents and managers recognize that non-union production is hurting business.
  • Union commercials can easily pay 10 times more than non-union spots. An agent earning the standard 10% commission on a union commercial still earns more than an agent struggling to get paid for a non-union commercial.
  • Professional representatives are also in an ideal position to encourage eligible non-members to join. Give your representatives SAG-AFTRA information and fliers they can provide to new or potential clients.