How Did Donald Trump Get a $110K SAG Pension?

Donald Trump - H 2015
AP Images

Donald Trump - H 2015

His most visible TV work has been as host on 'The Apprentice' and 'The Celebrity Apprentice.'

Buried in Donald Trump’s financial disclosure form, released Wednesday, is a bit of a surprise: listed among the Donald’s receipts is a $110,228 Screen Actors Guild pension. Though the amount is chump change for Trump, it’s natural to wonder how a billionaire acquired a union pension at all, and why it’s so high. Did someone make a mistake?

Probably not. Although his IMDb record discloses only a smattering of SAG work, if he was paid a sufficiently high fee for what appear to be mostly cameos, it’s quite possible that Trump achieved a pension this high.

Indeed, Trump is probably entitled to a bump, or more precisely another pension, from the AFTRA side of the house. His most visible TV work has been as host on The Apprentice and The Celebrity Apprentice. Although contestant gigs on reality shows are nonunion, the hosting slots are generally covered by AFTRA or, now, SAG-AFTRA. If his hosting duties were covered work, that would entitle him to an AFTRA pension as well, and it too is likely to be in the six figures.

Although the unions merged in 2012, the SAG and AFTRA pension/retirement plans remain separate, so even the recent years of hosting would be considered “AFTRA work” for pension purposes, despite the fact that the union is now SAG-AFTRA.

The disclosure form doesn’t indicate the applicable year, so it’s not clear when Trump received the pension or if the amount has changed over time.

The size of the pensions may surprise working actors, whose average TV and film earnings are around $52,000 (2007 figures, the latest the union will release) and who typically don’t receive such generous pensions when they retire. But stardom has its perks.

It may seem odd that a billionaire would be a pensioner, but pensions, like Social Security, are not means-tested. And pensions are payable starting at age 65 even to people who continue working. All a qualified recipient need do is fill out a form and submit it to the SAG-Producers Pension & Health Plans or the AFTRA Health & Retirement Funds.

It might also seem ironic that a Republican — and thus a presumed anti-unionist — is receiving a union pension, but it’s not actually clear whether Trump is anti-union. On the one hand, in his most recent apparent statement on the subject, a 2011 interview with Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, Trump acknowledges that he uses union labor and says that he “has a great relationship with unions.” On the other hand, he also said in the interview that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — now also a leading Republican candidate for president — was “maybe right for his state” when he took action to weaken and defeat public sector unions.

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Bookmark The Hollywood Reporter’s Labor Page for the most in-depth coverage of entertainment unions and guilds.

July 23, 12:52 p.m. A previous version of this story inaccurately asserted that Trump was several years older than 65 when he began receiving his pension.