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We Are the Union, the Union Is Us: True Stories from Portland Local Members

We all know that the union is ready to stand up for us when we need it to — but every day, Portland Local members are doing their part to stand up for their union and their fellow members. Here are just a few stories from the “trenches” about how SAG-AFTRA has been there for local members, and how members have done their part to strengthen SAG-AFTRA in our market.

I was recently contacted to audition for a short film. I told the producer/director that the script was lovely and the role perfect for me, but that I was a SAG-AFTRA member and the audition notice listed the film as non-union, so I had to demur.  

But then, I asked if the producers were opposed to union status in principle. They replied that they were believers in the union, but that they were certain that they couldn’t get the necessary signatory status in time for their hopeful shooting date, which was two weeks down the road. I went ahead and did the audition, which they liked, and we entered into a conversation about what we could do if we could get the union status taken care of in time. I connected them with Chris Comte in the Seattle office, and he shepherded them through the process. They later told me that the process was not as onerous as they been told it would be by other young filmmakers. The shoot schedule ended up being delayed a week, and all was completed in time. 

I’d never tried very hard to flip a project before, feeling that it would be difficult and feeling ill-prepared to do so. The shoot was great, as was the production company, and successfully flipping the project resulted in my feeling much less intimidated to try again. It also showed me that producers might be amenable to work with the union and tell their fellow filmmakers that the process was easier than they had thought.  

— T.E. in Vancouver


My first SAG-AFTRA job was on a TV show shooting here in Portland. I was really happy to work on the show, and I was really excited when residual checks started showing up in the mail!

After about a year or so, though, the checks stopped coming. I saw the episode of the show I’d worked on in the TV listings, but nothing showed up in my mailbox. I wasn’t sure what to do — I wasn’t a member yet (it was my first SAG-AFTRA job) but I was pretty sure I should be getting residual payments.

I looked up SAG-AFTRA’s phone number on the website and called the Residuals Department. The woman who answered the phone explained that even though I wasn’t a member, I’d worked under a SAG-AFTRA contract and the production company had to honor the terms of that contract whether I was a member or not. She took my information and filed a claim — and after a few months, a big residual check (including a penalty) showed up in the mail.

Knowing the union was willing to go to bat for me even though I wasn’t a member yet was a great feeling — and remembering that feeling made it that much easier to join when I did my next union job.  

— H.P. in Southeast Portland

Have you done something to help strengthen SAG-AFTRA in our market? Has the union been there for you when you needed it? We want to hear your true stories. Send them to and they might just be included in future newsletters.