The SAG-AFTRA strike has changed the entertainment landscape. In a historic move, the union joined the Writers Guild of America on the picket lines on July 14 after negotiations broke down with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
While SAG’s guidelines prohibit members from participating in most jobs with struck companies, they are permitted to do work covered by other agreements. Here’s everything that union and nonunion actors are allowed to do during the strike.
- What can’t union members do during the strike?
- What counts as a struck company?
- What can union members do during the strike?
- What happens if a union member breaks strike rules?
- What can’t nonunion actors do during the strike?
- What can nonunion actors do during the strike?
- How to avoid crossing the picket line
SAG-AFTRA members aren’t allowed to work for struck companies in jobs that fall under the union’s TV and theatrical contracts. You can read the full list of strike rules here.
Hollywood productions have been shutting down worldwide, particularly in the U.K., where major productions including “Deadpool 3,” “Beetlejuice 2,” “Wicked,” “House of the Dragon,” and “The Sandman” Season 2 have been filming. Some of these projects have been put on hold, while others are continuing to shoot. It depends on whether the production is contracted under SAG or Equity U.K. (the British screen and stage actors’ union, which is not on strike).
While the SAG strike is legal under U.S. law, it isn’t in Britain. Accordingly, Equity U.K. advises its members—even if they’re also in SAG—to continue working for struck companies. It further notes that SAG members who are in Britain on Equity U.K. contracts should continue working if they have a Global Rule One SAG contract addendum.
GR1 stipulates that “no member shall render any services or make an agreement to perform services for any employer who has not executed a basic minimum agreement with the union, which is in full force and effect in any jurisdiction in which there is a SAG-AFTRA national collective bargaining agreement in place. This provision applies worldwide.”
Strike or not, GR1 dictates that SAG members aren’t allowed to work for a production company making television, film, or streaming content that has not entered a bargaining agreement with SAG.
Influencers who are members of SAG may not accept any new work promoting projects from struck companies or even post fan content about them. Here are the union’s guidelines for influencers:
- Don’t “accept any new work for promotion of struck companies or their content.”
- “Refrain from posting on social media about any struck work,” whether you’re being paid for it or not.
- Don’t “participate in conventions such as Comic-Con on behalf of or to promote” struck companies. This includes “appearances, panels, fan meet-and-greets, etc. involving struck work. You may participate in a convention in ways that are wholly independent of characters from struck work or sponsorship by struck companies.”
This term applies to any studio, network, or streamer operating under an AMPTP contract. These include:
- Major studios: Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Studios, Warner Bros., and all subsidiaries
- Principal broadcast TV networks: ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, and all subsidiaries
- Streaming services: Netflix, Apple TV+, Amazon, HBO, Peacock, etc.
- Some cable television networks
- Some independent film and television production companies
SAG-AFTRA’s full list of struck companies adheres closely to the WGA’s list, which can be found here.
SAG members are allowed to work on the following:
- TV commercials
- Soap operas
- Variety shows
- Talk shows
- Game shows
- Music videos
- Corporate/educational and non-broadcast (formerly “industrial”) programs
- Station contracts and broadcast news
- Sound recordings
SAG-AFTRA has also granted interim agreements to over 200 indie movie and TV productions not tied to the AMPTP, including two A24 films: ”Death of a Unicorn,” starring Paul Rudd and Jenna Ortega, and “Mother Mary,” featuring Anne Hathaway and Michaela Cole.
On Aug. 14, SAG-AFTRA posted a statement that it “will now exclude from Interim Agreements any WGA-covered project to be produced in the USA.” Since the WGA does not include interim agreements in its strike strategy, the modification is meant to support the writers’ guild while still allowing truly independent producers and SAG members to work on permitted projects.
According to Variety, the union’s chief executive director, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, said that actors are “actively encouraged” to take part in projects that meet this criteria.
- Influencer Agreement
- Cameo for Business Agreement
- Network TV Code
- Interactive/Video Game Agreement
- Short Project Agreement
- Micro-Budget Project Agreement
- Student Film Agreement
- Independent New Media Agreement (deferrable)
- Independent Podcast Agreement and Micro-Monetized Podcast Agreement (includes both scripted performances and hosting)
- SAG-Approved Interim Agreements (work for producers who aren’t affiliated with the AMPTP who agree to the SAG-AMPTP contract stipulations when the strike is over; members must apply for an interim agreement by contacting their assigned business representative.)
- Certain separately negotiated basic cable agreements
- Radio commercials
- Digital media commercials
- TV and new-media animation
Stage acting: Theatrical work is permitted during the strike. SAG members like Lea Michele, Josh Groban, and Ben Platt can continue performing in Broadway productions (“Funny Girl,” “Sweeney Todd,” and “Parade,” respectively) without crossing the picket line because stage acting falls under the jurisdiction of the Actors’ Equity Association, not SAG.
See the full list of non-struck work here. SAG encourages its members to promote themselves during the strike “as an artist, a fashion icon, a union activist, a commercial actor, and a proud SAG-AFTRA member.”
According to SAG, “Any member who disregards the strike order could face discipline, per the SAG-AFTRA Constitution and SAG-AFTRA Membership Rules.” Disciplinary actions can include:
- A reprimand
- A fine
- Suspension from the union
- Expulsion from the union
Nonunion actors are technically permitted to work for struck companies without disciplinary action. However, those hoping to join SAG one day should follow the same guidelines as union members, which means not working for struck companies in jobs that fall under the TV/Theatrical Contract. Nonunion actors who disregard strike rules will be branded as scabs (people who work for struck companies during a strike) and be refused admission into SAG. This rule also applies to nonunion influencers.
SAG released a notice stating, “Any nonmember seeking future membership in SAG-AFTRA who performs covered work or services for a struck company during the strike will not be admitted into membership in SAG-AFTRA.”
Join the picket line: SAG encourages nonmembers to come out and show their support for the strike. If you hope to join the union in the future, your attendance at a protest is likely to be a boon. You can find a nationwide picketing schedule here.
Perform in indie projects: This might be the perfect time to lend your talent to a student film, music video, or another non-struck production to build out your performance résumé. Since nonunion actors aren’t beholden to SAG’s Global Rule One, you may accept work from independent producers who don’t have a basic minimum agreement with the union.
Update your materials: Zhuzh up that résumé, get new headshots, work on your sizzle reel, and revise your website so that you’re ready for action when the strike is over. If you hope to join SAG in the future, be extra careful that you don’t accidentally promote work from struck companies when updating your materials. This means that you should cut any clips from studio films—including background work—from your sizzle reel until the strike is over. Posting it on social media could brand you a scab.
Work on landing an agent and/or manager: Although an agent (speaking anonymously) told Backstage that most reps won’t be looking for new talent during the strike, this may end up being your lucky moment. You’re free to seek representation without crossing picket lines; just be very clear that you won’t work for struck companies and that the agent or manager shouldn’t solicit work for you with any struck companies.
Create your own content: Whether it’s a self-produced short film, a scripted podcast, or a TikTok skit, there’s no better time to tap into your creativity and work on establishing your personal brand.
Don’t audition, interview, work for, or promote struck companies and their projects. This includes participating in conventions like Comic-Con International and fests like the New York Film Festival either on behalf of or to promote struck companies—even on social media.
Prohibited work for struck companies includes:
- Stunt work
- Voice acting
- Background acting
- Stand-in work
- Auditions (including self-tapes)
- Publicity (conventions, interviews, tours, or promotion via social media of any struck work or companies)
Don’t agree to work that will begin post-strike. You may not discuss a job with a struck company, even if it would start after the strike is over.
Be very clear about which agreement a project falls under. While, say, providing narration for a Sony movie isn’t allowed during the strike, voice acting for a video game is. Filming for a scripted Apple TV+ show would make you a strikebreaker, but appearing on a daytime soap opera wouldn’t.
While these rules may seem arbitrary, it’s all about the contract. Use SAG’s Signatory Search tool to check which contract a production is working under. If you’re participating in an interim agreement project, check this list to ensure that it meets all guidelines, is not a WGA project, and has been approved by SAG.
When in doubt, ask. Call 877-8 STRIKE (877-878-7453) or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out whether a project is in violation of strike guidelines.