Many performers have SAG-AFTRA membership as a career goal, but how does one obtain that coveted union card? Here’s how to become a member of SAG-AFTRA and take advantage of the professional opportunities and significant protections that come with being a union actor.


SAG-AFTRA is the pinnacle of professional actors‘ unions. The abbreviation stands for the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the Screen Actors Guild. The group is the largest union for performance artists in the entertainment business, representing more than 160,000 members. Collective bargaining and defending the rights of its members comprise its main goals.

Following pay cuts and contract disputes during the Great Depression, SAG and AFTRA were both established in the 1930s with the goal of empowering and protecting media artists. The National Labor Review Board ruled in the 1950s that AFTRA, which permitted any media worker to purchase their way into the organisation, would have authority over live television, while SAG, which advocated a more limited membership strategy, would have jurisdiction over filmed television. Through the years, there were ups and downs in the SAG and AFTRA relationship. They collaborated and developed coalitions during the 1970s and 1980s, only to find themselves at odds in the 1990s over the issue of universal intellectual property norms.

The idea to unite SAG and AFTRA was initially floated in 1999, but it wasn’t approved until 2012 after a majority of members from both unions voted in favor of doing so. Unite for Strength, which emphasizes more financial issues, and Membership First, which emphasizes more contract issues, are the two groups that now make up the union.

The mission of SAG-AFTRA in its condensed form is:

“SAG-AFTRA unites the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, two exemplary American labor groups. Both organizations, which were founded during the turbulence of the 1930s, have a long history of advocating for and winning the most robust rights for media artists. In order to maintain these hard-won rights and to continue the fight to extend and strengthen these protections into the 21st century and beyond, our members came together to join the successor union. We are media professionals who work as actors, announcers, broadcast journalists, dancers, DJs, news writers, news directors, program hosts, puppeteers, musicians, singers, recording artists, voice actors, and stunt performers. You can see and hear our work on all platforms for media distribution, including in theaters, on television, radio, in sound recordings, online, in games, on mobile devices, and in home videos. We are the voices and faces that entertain and educate both America and the rest of the world.

What is the cost of SAG-AFTRA membership?

The $3,000 SAG-AFTRA initiation fee. Once you join, you must pay a $227.42 annual base fee as well as an additional 1.575 percent of your first $750,000 in SAG-AFTRA-protected earnings.

How can I sign up for SAG-AFTRA?

Once you’ve made up your mind to sign up, you must find out how to join SAG-AFTRA. Take some time to choose the best route for you from the various routes that lead to SAG eligibility.

Acquire a job covered by a collective bargaining agreement with the actor’s union: Booking a job covered by a CBA with the actor’s union is the most popular route for performers to obtain their SAG-AFTRA card. The Taft-Hartley Act permits producers to use nonunion talent if the performer possesses a skill that, after a diligent search, cannot be discovered among the union stock. Actors who producers employ may become members of SAG-AFTRA if certain conditions are met, provided that a contract has been signed with SAG-AFTRA.

At least three days must be worked by background actors. The performer must put in a full day of work to be considered for primary or speaking roles. If you can show your local union office with pay stubs or a paid activity document from a payroll business that you’ve met the requirements, you’re in. Before submitting these documents to the union, remember to make copies of them for your own keeping. Contact us for more information about SAG and acting classes in Los Angeles.