In today’s ever-evolving ad industry, where companies merge and power is concentrated in fewer hands, where employers seek to divide and conquer for greater profit, where workers’ rights are increasingly threatened, the union’s collective power is one of performers’ greatest tools to protect themselves.

Working under the SAG-AFTRA Commercials Contracts guarantees members fair wages, safe sets, protection from image exploitation and the opportunity to qualify for great health insurance and a pension. Previous generations of performers came together to establish a solid union and fought for these protections, often risking their own livelihoods to ensure futures members could build rewarding, stable and sustainable careers.

When workers come together and collectively bargain with employers for wages, benefits and workplace standards, they achieve what one worker alone cannot. The power of a united workforce is undeniable, and this power provides the leverage that makes it possible for a union to negotiate and enforce fair contracts. SAG-AFTRA is the largest performers union in the world, but it’s the unwavering solidarity, as much as the size, that provides it’s strength.

SAG-AFTRA’s Global Rule One is what binds performers together. It’s is the requirement that members work only under union contracts in any of SAG-AFTRA’s jurisdictions. However, more profoundly, it is a promise made to the professional performer community to stand together and not undercut one another as well as a message to employers that they cannot succeed in pitting performers against each other.

Over the last 10 years, the unity of our performer community has been tested. There’s no denying that the increase in non-union commercial work has shaken some members’ resolve to not work non-union. Employers know that, and are taking advantage, wherever and whenever they can.

Every time a union member makes themself available for non-union commercial work, they are signaling to the advertising world that it is ok to pay professional performers less than they deserve. The member is telling non-signatory ad agencies that they don’t need to sign SAG-AFTRA’s contracts to work with the best performers in the world. The member is telling billion-dollar corporations that they can deny performers access to health insurance. The member is telling cost consultants that the safety of performers doesn’t need to be a concern. Every time a union performer puts their skill and talent on sale, they devalue themself, deleverage their union brothers and sisters, and erode the wages and standards union predecessors fought so hard to leave to the future.

Artists are especially susceptible to exploitation, because they have an insatiable passion for what they do and, at times, forget that they are also workers who have rights and whose talent has demonstrable value to multi-billion dollar corporations who need to sell goods and services. While making a career in entertainment demands enormous commitment, energy and faith in one’s talent, it also requires a community that will stand steadfast in asking for what they deserve. No one can do it alone.

Our recent commercials negotiations delivered groundbreaking new models that make it easy to hire union performers for ads on every platform and at every budget level. The simplicity, flexibility and predictability these models provide make it easier than ever to produce commercials under a union contract.

This is an important moment for SAG-AFTRA. While the union now has contracts that will work for every advertiser and agency in the industry, employers will only use those contracts if the best talent refuse to work non-union. Even if you have faltered in the past, it’s not too late to step back from a bad decision and start anew. Don’t let anyone tell you that your talent is easily replaced. It’s not. If everyone with the talent and skill to create effective advertising refuses to put themselves on sale and undercut their fellow performers, the commercial industry will once again be a solidly union industry.

It’s not a dream. It’s within grasp. The decisions each member makes impacts every performer in the community. What legacy will you be proud to leave for the next generation?


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