Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is SAG-AFTRA.
Name of Union: Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA)
Mission: SAG-AFTRA combines two great American labor unions, founded in the 1930s to fight for and secure the strongest protections for media artists. SAG-AFTRA was formed to preserve those hard-won rights and to continue the fight to extend and expand those protections.
Current Leadership of Union: Gabrielle Carteris serves as president of SAG-AFTRA. She served two terms as executive vice president before being elected president in 2016. She was re-elected in 2017 and again in 2019. Carteris has an extensive resume in television, film and theater, and is best known for the role of Andrea Zuckerman on “Beverly Hills, 90210.” She chairs the SAG-AFTRA National TV/Theatrical Contracts Negotiating Committee and leads the President’s Task Force on Education, Outreach and Engagement.
Rebecca Damon serves as executive vice president, Camryn Manheim serves as secretary-treasurer, and SAG-AFTRA has seven vice presidents.
Number of Members: 160,000.
Members Work As: Actors, announcers, broadcast journalists, dancers, DJs, news writers, news editors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voiceover artists and other media professionals.
Industries Represented: Broadcast, film, television, online media, sound recordings, new media, streaming.
History: The Screen Actors Guild formed in 1933 during the heyday of the Hollywood studio system. Six actors came together to discuss forming a self-governing organization of film actors. One of the new organization’s first actions was protesting provisions in the U.S. government’s proposed code of fair competition for motion pictures that were objectionable to actors, including salary limitations, licensing of agents by the producers, and giving studios a right of first refusal when a contract ended, thus limiting an actor’s bargaining power.
In 1937, the American Federation of Radio Artists (AFRA), which would become AFTRA after the rise of television in the 1950s, was formed. That same year, SAG negotiated its first contract, with 13 producers signing on. AFRA signed its first national contract the next year. By 1941, both unions had moved toward more actively seeking to expand the rights of their members and other performers. AFRA engaged in its first strike in 1941, against radio station WKRC Cincinnati. SAG would hold its first strike, which related to televised commercials, in 1952–53.
During the 1950s and ’60s, a major shift for both unions was a stronger focus on battling discrimination, both in front of the camera and behind it. They spent the remainder of the century dealing with the expansion of broadcast productions and the growth of new technologies that would continually change the industry well into the 2000s.
Talk of merging the various performer unions, including SAG and AFRA (as it was known then) began as early as the late 1930s, but the eventually combined SAG-AFTRA wouldn’t officially be recognized until 2012, AFTRA’s 75th anniversary year. The merger was overwhelmingly approved by the membership of each union, and SAG President Ken Howard and AFTRA President Roberta Reardon became the first SAG-AFTRA co-presidents.
Current Campaigns/Community Efforts: For 26 years, the SAG Awards have recognized the most outstanding acting performances of the year. MOVE helps connect members to the greater labor movement as well as community and charitable activities. SAG-AFTRA’s diversity committees seek to improve diversity and protections for actors of diverse backgrounds. For news and announcements related to the industry, SAG-AFTRA publishes a magazine and a podcast in both English and Spanish. The SAG-AFTRA shop sells branded gear.