For as long as I’ve been in LA, I’ve wanted to be a SAG-AFTRA actor. It seemed like an unreachable milestone that had so many setbacks for me. I booked a commercial my sophomore year of college that was originally SAG (this was in 2003 so pre-merger), but then on the shoot day they went non-union. I started doing background work to get my vouchers and got one right away, but that was the only one I could get. I finally became SAG-eligible when I worked at Halloween Horror Nights in 2007. When you work that job you have to join AGVA, which is a sister union, so you become eligible to join.
I stayed SAG-eligible until right before the merger. I decided it was time to take the plunge then and I got in about a month before the merger went through. It felt like such a huge relief to know that all the jobs I work will have the protection of the union. I’ve worked in some questionable situations in the past and now I wouldn’t have to stand for those anymore.
But after I joined, I wasn’t very active in the union. I joined the SAG-AFTRA Conservatory but haven’t made it to many events. I’ve been in the Film Society, but that’s more for fun than anything. And I’ve always voted in every election because I feel like that is my responsibility as a union member.
But a few months ago, a good friend of mine asked me if I’d consider running as a convention delegate for the Los Angeles local. I looked into it and decided to take the plunge! Immediately I got involved with the slate that I was running with. I helped pass out campaign materials, I met members and encouraged them to vote, and I heard the issues that other actors have experienced that they wanted to see fixed.
Right away I realized that I had been treating my union membership as just a card to make sure that I got paid better than before. I hadn’t really realized the power that it has. And I became inspired that no matter how the election went, I would become a more active member of the union.
I’m very happy to announce that I won my convention delegate seat for a 2 year term! I’m already getting emails about various committees that I can join to help make the union better for all actors. And I’m realizing that there were so many things I could have done before to educate myself on union issues.
So I want to challenge all you SAG-AFTRA actors to do something. I want you to all become more involved in the union. Sadly, we have a lack of involvement. In the election that just happened, only 16% of actors eligible to vote turned a ballot in! If there were a few more votes for certain candidates, things could have really been different!
But since elections are over, there are many other ways to get involved. You can attend an orientation about the union. Even if you’ve been in the union for a while, you can still attend one. You can get involved in the next contract negotiations. There are wages and working conditions events where all members can attend and have their voices heard about their concerns with the current contracts. You can attend the fun events through the Film Society or through SAG Foundation. It’s an amazing way to meet fellow SAG-AFTRA members! And there are volunteer opportunities through BookPals and MOVE.
No matter if you’ve been in the union for years or if you are a newbie, there are so many ways to be an active union member!