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.
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Questions & Answers
- Can I be required to be a union member or pay dues to a union?
- If I work in a Right to Work state, can I resign my union membership and cut off any further dues collections from my salary?
- How can I resign my union membership?
- How do I cut off the use of my dues for politics and other nonbargaining activities?
- If I do not live in a Right to Work State, how can I stop paying all union dues?
- What if I have religious objections to joining or financially supporting a union?
- What if I am a victim of union violence?
- What if I want to work during a strike?
- If I believe my rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses, can I file my own unfair labor practice charges against the union or the employer at the National Labor Relations Board?
- What are my rights if the union is conducting a “Card Check” organizing drive at my workplace?
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