The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television
and Radio Artists (AFTRA) are expelling from membership, or denying
membership to, actors and actresses who worked for struck employers
during last year’s nationwide strike against advertising agencies and
producers of radio and television commercials. If you did struck work
during this strike, you should know the following:
SAG and AFTRA can lawfully expel their members, or deny membership, for
working during a strike. However, SAG and AFTRA, and advertising agencies
and producers, cannot lawfully discriminate against nonmembers in hiring
or in auditions. If a nonmember is willing to pay the dues amount while
working under a SAG or AFTRA contract in a non-Right to Work state, that
is all that is required under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
Even in non-Right to Work states, the most that can be required as a
condition of employment by a "union shop" agreement is the
payment of the equivalent of union dues (misleadingly called
"financial core membership") or, if an employee notifies the
union that he or she objects to paying more, only that part of dues that
is used for collective bargaining and contract administration. Therefore,
advertising agencies and producers commit an unfair labor practice if
they refuse to hire, or fire, an actor or actress because that person is
not a union member. Similarly, SAG and AFTRA commit an unfair labor
practice if they cause an advertising agency or producer not to hire, or
fire, based on nonmembership. For information on how to file an unfair
labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board click here.
Moreover, if SAG or AFTRA expels or refuses to admit an individual to
membership for any reason other than nonpayment of the initiation fee and
dues, including for working during the strike, that individual cannot
lawfully be required to pay anything to the union as a condition of
employment during the period of expulsion or denial of membership. See
NLRA Section 8(a)(3), 29 U.S.C. Section 158(a)(3); Communications
Workers Local 1104, 211 N.L.R.B. 114 (1974), enforced, 520
F.2d 411 (2d Cir. 1975); Transportation Workers, Local 525 (Johnson
Controls World Services), 326 N.L.R.B. 8, reconsideration granted
in part, 327 N.L.R.B. 23 (1998).
In a state that has a Right to Work Law, advertising agencies and
producers can never lawfully require union membership or payment of union
dues as a condition of employment, and SAG and AFTRA cannot lawfully
cause or attempt to cause an advertising agency or producer to do so.
Such conduct would violate both the Right to Work Law and the
National Labor Relations Act.
SAG and AFTRA can require payment of a fee for the operation of a hiring
hall, but the fee must represent the actual costs of operating the hiring
hall, and the hiring hall cannot discriminate against nonmembers.
SAG and AFTRA members may resign and declare "financial core
status" at any time in order to escape those unions’ rules against
working for nonunion employers. To avoid discipline for working on a
nonunion production, an actor or actress must resign before beginning the
nonunion work. For information on how to resign click here.
NOTE: The legal principles discussed above apply to all entertainment industry unions, not just SAG and AFTRA.