Monday, February 16, 2015

Why work union?

Why are you union or anti-union, a SAG-AFTRA member works by the rules or non-union talent?

I have, in front of me, heard actors told not to join the union. It is insulting because the people talking know that I have given twenty years on the national board of a union, SAG-AFTRA and more than that in local service.

Who was saying that? Someone who talked about what joining will keep you from doing, how it will "limit" your potential and how production is "going non-union everywhere". Right to Work laws were also misrepresented...the truth is that Right To Work laws exist so that workers in 40 hour jobs are not locked out of a position solely because they are not a member of a union. With actors we do not, for the most part, have forty hour jobs acting. Right to work does not allow you to work union jobs outside of the state without joining, as this person was told, and it does not have the same benefits as being union.

More on when you should consider joining later in this open letter...

When you do non-union work, whether union or not, you are weakening the ability of your fellow professional union talent to feed their families and earn a living. Sounds far fetched, but it is true.

You keep the union from building a base of contracted producers and directors so that the amount, and thus income from, union work can grow.

When you work non-union you are telling the world you are not a professional, and you have no interest in the profession and your fellow talent.

When you work non-union you are risking being looked upon as a hobyist by union casting directors, directors and producers.

When members work "off the card" they are violating union rules and can be kicked out of the union, or fined the amount they made on the non-union project plus any money the project makes in future.

When you work "off the card" you risk the union going after the producer to find out how much you make and will make, and putting a lean against any future earnings from that project.

If you work non-union you are providing your talents without the protection of a union.

That means no pension and health contributions (they add up fast and when you qualify it is the best possible coverage...referred t as Cadalac coverage at very little cost).

When you work non union you may have to fight. or even sue to get paid. Union talent is paid within seven days of working or there are penalties. If a producer defaults, the union distributes the production bond to actors and sues to collect whatever else you are owed. You therefore impact all actors in your area by not growing the ability of the union to protect talent .

When you work non-union you have no contract or when you do it is one that is written by and for the producers benefit. A union contract does protect the producer, but it also protects you.

You may think you are increasing your income but in fact you are limiting your income though association, reputation and loss of integrity. The industry does know.

When you work non-union there are no residual or use fee checks to follow. One check and that's it, regardless of how long or in how many ways your image is used.

When you work non-union you are impacting the unions ability to represent talent in an industry that in the past, and in more than some cases now, takes talent for granted and may abuse, misuse or mislead talent at will.

Post Sript. If you are new and are not ready to be considered a professional, your work on pre-union (non-unon) projects is trainging and the place to learn and make mistakes. It can help you gain a reel and reputation as an actor. But at some point, that only you can decide, you need to take the plunge. Well over 98% of money in actors pockets is from union work. Despite what you may hear on the street, the real professional work, quality paying work, is union.

The work that will truey showcase your talents is union.

I know, I have judged for or been on the board of a half dozen film festivals and the films that are the best made, with the best talent, most often have a union "bug" logo or a SAG Indy credit at the end of the film. Short and student and student films that win Academy Awards are almost entirely union films, under one of many unions covering talent of all types around the world. is not a fire sale but a fact. If you join in Nevada (check on the rates where you live) you pay $1,150 plus one dues period, or under $1,500. When you work on a union project in a union security state (such as Hollywood, Chicago and New York) you pay the difference in initiation fees as of the date you joined. Dues and initial fees will go up, but you never pay more than the difference on the date you joined. So Savings in the long run if you join now rather than wait.

Those up for awards, any award, this awards season are all union members. There is a reason for that. Union represents quality, fairness, workers rights and the ability to earn a living doing what you love to do.

Holding a union card high is a sign of a professional. Ask Tom Hanks or the long line of actors who have done so on award shows, at rallies. on picket lines and even at events at their own homes.

Membership has its benefits.

So think about it.

I welcome your feedback or additional thoughts in comments below or at

Art Lynch

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