You may have noticed that I am posting more and more about union events. I’ve been saying for a while that I wanted to become more involved in the union and I’m finally taking advantage of that! My schedule is fairly regular so I can make plans to attend different meetings and events and I love how this makes me feel continuously involved in union happenings and not that I’m on the outskirts. And this week was another week where I was at union headquarters for another meeting!
So many of the meetings and events I’ve been going to lately have been about commercials. This is a pretty current issue for a few reasons. First, the union will be negotiating the new commercial contract next year so we are getting prepared for that. But also, commercials have always been both union and non-union, but we are starting to see more non-union than before. Many jobs are still union, but we want to make sure they stay that way and that we get even more union commercials.
SAG-AFTRA has an entire committee dedicated to keeping commercials union and that was what this meeting was about. Members of the committee as well as union staff were there to explain more about the plan to get more commercials to be union work and what things have been happening so far.
While I’ve been at several events regarding union commercials, I learned new things at this meeting. These meetings are a response to the growing problem of non-union work and because of what members say in them the union can know what our specific issues are and how to remedy that.
I’ve been pretty lucky. While I don’t audition for commercials a lot, my agents have never asked me to violate union rules and audition for non-union work. In fact, when a commercial lied about being union and when I found out, my agents told me to leave because they didn’t want me to run into any issues. Not all actors are that lucky and they were discussing how their agents are encouraging them to work non-union even though they are union members.
But even though I’ve been lucky since becoming a union member, I know the issues of non-union commercials from before I joined SAG-AFTRA. When I was non-union, I did a commercial that paid pretty decently. It was super easy work and with what I made I paid my rent and bills for a month! I was so excited! But I didn’t realize that because my contract allowed the ad agency to use the commercial in perpetuity (which is common in non-union work), I had no idea then that I would have something that has been on tv for 11 years! It’s a haircare commercial/informercial and I see it on tv all the time. If this was union, I would be making residuals and still be getting paid. But because it was non-union and I didn’t have the protection of SAG-AFTRA and the contracts we have, I only got that 1 payment that doesn’t seem that much when you think about it being split over 11 years.
Because of my experience with non-union work, I’m passionate about making sure that other actors don’t have the same issue. If they aren’t in SAG-AFTRA and chose to do a non-union work, I want them to know what things to look for in a contract so they are making an educated decision. But I am even more passionate about helping commercials be union so that actors will have the protections that we have in our contracts. And that’s why I love getting to know more about the Ads Go Union campaign in meetings and being able to share what I learn with you all. This time, we got more information on recent things that the campaign has done and promoted to other members.
Even if I don’t book another commercial in my entire career, this issue is going to be an important one for me. I know first-hand how easily actors who don’t know better can get into a contract that they may regret later. And I want to see more union work so that my union brothers and sisters have more opportunities to do what they love. For me, my union dedication is all about education and seeing others succeed. And hopefully I will succeed as well.
I am looking to branch out a bit more and find union events about other issues so I can learn more about other union things I may want to get involved in. But for now, I’m just so happy that I’ve been able to get involved in the commercial recapturing initiative and that I will be able to find ways to help out other actors. I do plan on attending more and more events and I will keep finding ways to be involved and to make sure that all actors are educated on the issues.