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Pre-Merger: Should You Join AFTRA?
Here's How To Evaluate Your Options
March 1, 2012

Note: This month VoiceOverXtra publishes Voice Over LEGAL, a new eBook by the author - essential info you need to successfully manage your voice over business and legal issues. Details coming soon!

By Robert J. Sciglimpaglia Jr.
Voice Actor, Actor, Attorney

Q:  I am not a member of any performance union, but I heard that if I join AFTRA now, I will automatically become a member of the new union, SAG-AFTRA, upon ratification of the merger by the membership. Is this true, and what if I declare Fi-Core (financial core) - will I still become a member of both unions?  

A:  Yes it is true that if the merger is ratified by a 60% vote of the members of both unions (Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), hereinafter SAG and AFTRA, then members of either SAG or AFTRA will automatically become members of the newly merged union, SAG-AFTRA.

So, since AFTRA is an open union - meaning anyone can join by paying the initiation fee - you can pay the $1600 initiation fee, plus first quarter dues of $63.90, and become a full member of AFTRA. 

Per the new Merger Agreement, this will entitle the new AFTRA member to become a member of what is now both unions, SAG and AFTRA, and what will become one union.


Ratification ballots have been sent to the members of both Unions.            

Under the proposed constitution of the merged union, the initiation fee will be $3,000 and the current SAG qualification rules will apply, meaning it will not be an open union like the current AFTRA.

But you will need to qualify by working under a new SAG-AFTRA contract, i.e, a principal roles with lines under a union production, or by working background for at least three days with a Taft Hartley waiver (aka vouchers) - the same as current SAG membership requirements.


If you join AFTRA and then declare Fi-Core prior to the merger, you will not become a member of the new union because you will be "resigning” from AFTRA when you declare Fi-Core.

Instead, you would become a "dues paying non-member." Thus, it appears you will not automatically become a member of the new union. 

There is a provision under the new constitution, however, where the National Board of the new Union will have discretion to allow members to join if the National Board determines someone is "engaged in work that advances the active organizing efforts or general goals of SAG-AFTRA.” 

So, theoretically, if one were to give up Fi-Core status and want to become a full member of the new Union, then this provision allows the new Union to allow this, if it wishes.


Caveat: this assumes the merger agreement will be ratified by members.

A core group of SAG members, headed by former SAG President Ed Asner, has filed a law suit to block the merger, or to set it aside if the members ratify it. 

Their reasoning is that the Merger Agreement does not take into account what will happen to the current Health and Pension benefits of both unions, which will remain separate under the new agreement. 

A study back in 2003 found that members may lose some of those accrued benefits if the unions were to merge. This is why a merger was not agreed to earlier. 

It appears that the majority wants this merger to happen, so it likely will be passed. Only time will tell if this suit will have any impact.


For background info on the merger, see this earlier VOXtra article.

And please click here for:

Robert J. Sciglimpaglia Jr. is a busy voice talent, actor and attorney with the firm of Kerin & Canty, in Norwalk, Conn. A frequent speaker at industry events, columnist and feature writer of voice over legal matters, he is also owner of All In One Voice, a voice over instruction and business/legal services firm. And he is author of Voice Over LEGAL, a 100+ page eBook for voice actors to be published soon by VoiceOverXtra.

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