The best way to compete in the world of entertainment and news media is to be a prepared, well-trained and informed professional. Learn from these real-world experiences, understand your rights and take action.
Here are three things SAG-AFTRA members should keep in mind.
IF YOU SEE SOMETHING WRONG, TELL YOUR UNION
Use your discretion and if you can say something on the spot, do so, or report it ASAP to the union. You can always report things anonymously.
IT'S NOT WHAT YOU ARE, IT'S WHAT YOU CAN PLAY
Whether on a breakdown, in an audition or on the job, the criteria should always be what your professional qualifications are, and not what your personal identification might be.
ALWAYS KEEP RECORDS
Names, dates, locations, including your earnings - paystubs and vouchers - EVERYTHING.
Your Reality: I’m a broadcaster who has been working at this station for 25 years. Last week, the general manager called me in and said, “Why don’t you think about retiring? We need more young blood here.” Your Reality: I’m a background performer, and the producer promised to get me a speaking line and upgrade me to a featured role if I went on a date with her … Your Rights: Various federal state and local laws protect you from being treated differently in the hiring process or work environment on the basis of your sex, race, color, creed, national origin, age, marital status, disability, gender identity and sexual orientation. If you believe you are subject to unlawful discrimination or harassment, contact the SAG-AFTRA EEO & Diversity Department at (323) 549-6644. Remember to ALWAYS KEEP RECORDS — names, dates, locations — EVERYTHING.
Your Reality: Today at the audition, a casting director asked me, “What is your ethnic background and what country are your parents from?” Your Reality: The breakdown for this project said “You must be Pakistani and no older than 45. No exceptions.” Your Rights: YOUR RIGHTS: SAG-AFTRA has a zero tolerance policy against unlawful harassment and discrimination by an employer. The union will support the rights of anyone working under our contracts who feels that he/she may have experienced a violation. Almost without exception, employers are prohibited from asking about your sex, race, color, creed, national origin, age, marital status, disability, gender identity and sexual orientation during the hiring process. You are under no obligation to provide an answer. You have every right to refuse and point out why this is not an appropriate question. If you are not comfortable doing this in the moment, however, you can also try a gentler tactic which will allow you to contact the union after you leave the room. Similarly, a casting breakdown should only describe the character/role and the skills required because IT’S NOT WHAT YOU ARE, IT’S WHAT YOU CAN PLAY. Remember: our contracts along with federal, state and city laws protect your right to an equal employment opportunity and your right to be considered on the basis of what you can do and not how you may self-identify or are labeled by others.
Your Reality: As a wheelchair user, I arrived at the casting studio to discover that there was no elevator or ramp to get up to the audition room. I wanted to call the casting director, but was worried inconveniencing them would blow my chance at getting the job. Your Rights: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations. If you don’t feel comfortable asking on your own, contact the union and we’ll help make it happen. IF YOU SEE SOMETHING WRONG, TELL YOUR UNION.
Your Reality: The producer approached me on set to see if I could translate a few of the lines into Chinese for the leading actress. Your Rights: The SAG-AFTRA AMPTP Codified Basic Agreement says that a “Performer may not be required to translate another performer’s dialogue into any language other than that in which a script is written. However, performer may bargain separately for such non-covered services.” KNOW YOUR CONTRACT. Before you take the job, be sure to work out a deal for appropriate compensation. If you have to make an in-the-moment decision, contact your representative or do your best to strike an acceptable deal right then and there.
The best way for the union to protect you is for you to know the union — and the provisions and protections that are negotiated on your behalf in all the contracts. Knowing the provisions and protections guaranteed by your contract is the best way to ensure you are always protected. All contracts are accessible online at sagaftra.org/productioncenter
SAG-AFTRA Foundation (SAGAFTRA.foundation) provides member emergency financial assistance, scholarships, educational programs and acting workshops at no cost. The Actors Fund (actorsfund.org) offers a broad spectrum of programs, social and health care services, career counseling, housing and more. Union Plus (unionplus.org) was created by the AFL-CIO for union members, Union Plus provides a broad range of discounted services.Other Helpful Resources: Federal EEO: (800) 669-4000, CA Dept. of Fair Employment and Housing: (800) 884-1684, NY Commission on Human Rights: (212) 306-7560. For resources in other local areas, contact us at (323) 549-6644.