Key SAG Rule to Survive Merger (Exclusive)

Chris Godley

Opponents of SAG-AFTRA merger had feared that the guild’s Global Rule 1, which prohibits members from working non-union, would be dropped if the unions merge. In another development, dues will decrease for some members and increase for others under a merged union.

SAG’s Global Rule 1, which requires members to work only under a union contract, will be retained in a merged SAG-AFTRA, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. Opponents of merger had raised the possibility that this would not be the case, since AFTRA has no analogous rule.

Retaining the rule may blunt one objection to merger, but a potentially controversial detail apparently remains: if the unions merge, the rule may not apply to all members of the combined organization – while all actors would be governed by the regulation, AFTRA broadcasters and singers may be exempt, at least initially.

That’s the implication of a conversation with a source aware of the new rules, who confirmed the applicability to actors, but when asked about the two other groups said only that some details of SAG-AFTRA rules will be determined by the new union’s board.

The reason for the distinction is a nettlesome issue for the union: some major news organizations, such as CNBC, are non-union. (AFTRA fought a ten-year battle to unionize that shop, but the National Labor Relations Board eventually ruled in favor of NBC management's position.) AFTRA broadcasters might lose significant job opportunities if Global Rule 1 applied to their work.

The provision’s name was changed was changed from “Rule 1” to “Global Rule 1” in 2002, reflecting a change in scope from U.S.-only to worldwide. The change, which the union argued was necessitated by runaway production, naturally dismayed producers. WGA and DGA rules have limited applicability overseas, and IATSE and the AFM don’t have union-only rules at all.

In another development of close interest to actors, THR has learned that dues will decrease for some members of the merged union and increase for others. That will depend, said a source who spoke on condition of anonymity, on the amount of work that the member performs in a given year.

Another likely factor, although not cited by the source, is whether a performer is currently a member of both SAG and AFTRA. Both unions’ dues structure feature a base amount plus fees that scale according to the member’s income during the year. Thus, dual cardholders are currently paying two base amounts in addition to the sliding scale fees.

SAG’s base dues are slightly lower than AFTRA’s. However, the SAG percentages are higher and are assessed up to an earnings cap of $500,000, whereas AFTRA’s stop after $250,000. As a result, SAG dues can be significantly more than AFTRA’s.


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