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Unions for Music, Dance, and Theater

American Federation of Musicians (AFM)

Everyday the American Federation of Musicians helps thousands of musicians. AFM is the largest organization in the world representing the interests of professional musicians. Whether negotiating fair agreements, protecting ownership of recorded music, securing benefits such as health care and pension, or lobbying legislators, the AFM is committed to raising industry standards and placing the professional musician in the foreground of the cultural landscape.

Represents

Professional musicians

Benefits

  • Contracts/collective bargaining:  The AFM negotiates wages and working conditions in order to maintain minimum standards for its members involved in recording, TV shows, music videos, commercials, films, video games and traveling theatrical productions.  The AFM also can provide a legally binding contract for any type of engagement, and when properly executed and filed with the local union, they allow the local officer to help collect payments in the case of a default. 
  • Pension and Health:  AFM members may earn credits toward retirement and, under certain conditions, health care each time they work. The AFM pension plan allows contributions for all working AFM members. 
  • Insurance Programs You Can Rely On:  The AFM is here to protect you and your valuable instruments by offering a number of low-cost options.  
  • Referral Programs/GoPro:  The AFM provides a host of referral programs and access to licensed signatory booking agents to help.
  • Subscription to International Musician.  Stay informed with a free subscription to the AFM’s award winning monthly magazine, International Musician.  In addition to fascinating interviews with some of the industry’s top names, each issue of the International Musician has news and information you need, industry employment and audition advertisements, and useful career advice.

How to Join

You can register online at: https://www.afm.org/join.  Or you can find the AFM Local for your geographic region. Mail the application to the Local's address.  After receiving your application, the Local will contact you to discuss the application and AFM membership details

Cost: Fees vary between Locals and you must look up the Local in which you permanently reside in order to get a price.  Some Locals offer discounts to students/youth members, but the individual must contact the Local first to verify.  If you have questions, contact Ms. Adrien Synnott, Recruitment Representative at 1-800-762-3444 ext 1243 or asynnott@afm.org.

American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA)

Because performing artists live to perform, they are vulnerable to employer exploitation, unfair and unsafe conditions and illegal discrimination. They can find the protection they need by joining AGMA. Performing artists support themselves with their talents and skill, but the beauty they create doesn’t necessarily pay the rent or the doctor bills. It doesn’t put food on the table or guarantee any of the other necessities of life. It doesn’t even assure that the artists can continue to develop their craft. Without forceful advocacy of their interests, artists can be subjected to abuse, to unfair pay without benefits, to unsafe and unprofessional working conditions, and no job security. 

Represents

Opera and concert singers, production personnel and dancers at principal opera, concert and dance companies throughout the United States.

Benefits

AGMA negotiates contracts, called collective bargaining agreements, that provide guaranteed wages, safe working conditions, rehearsal and overtime pay, regulated work hours, vacation and sick pay, resolution of disputes and protection against discrimination and abuse in any form. AGMA enforces those contracts. They assure that the collective bargaining agreements provide for health insurance, pension coverage, and protection against unreasonable working conditions and unsafe work places, and they make sure that employers live up to their contractual obligations. AGMA protects the legal, civil and artistic rights of the members, through an aggressive, litigious constant vigilance. 

How to Join

Call AGMA’s Membership Department (800-543-2462) for an application. You can also download an application from the website, www.musicalartists.org.

Cost

AGMA has a one-time-only initiation fee of $500. The total fee must be paid by the time your income from AGMA engagements reaches $2000, or three years from the date of your first AGMA contract – whichever comes first.  Basic dues are $78 a year, are due by January 1. Working dues are 2% of the first $100,000 gross income deducted from their compensation.

Actors Equity Association (AEA)

Equity seeks to advance, promote and foster the art of live theatre as an essential component of our society. Equity negotiates wages and working conditions and provides a wide range of benefits, including health and pension plans, for its members. Actors' Equity is a member of the AFL-CIO, and is affiliated with FIA, an international organization of performing arts unions.

Represents

Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

Benefits

  • Contract benefits include: minimum salaries (negotiated rates, overtime, extra pay for additional duties, free housing or per diem on tour); work rules (length of day, breaks, days off, safe and sanitary conditions); health, pension and 401(k) benefits; dispute resolution (including recourse to impartial and binding arbitration); just cause (penalties for improper dismissal); bonding (guaranteeing payments to the Actors if the producer becomes insolvent or defaults); and Supplemental Workers' Comp insurance, which provides additional compensation over-and-above Workers' Comp if you're injured on the job.
  • Membership benefits include: Equity-only auditions via casting call and Equity hotlines; agency regulations; member discounts, the Equity News and website; seminars and special events; professional name protection; tax assistance through VITA; and voting privileges, among many others.
  • Union membership also includes access to service organizations like The Actors' Fund, Career Transition for Dancers, the Actors' Federal Credit Union and the AFL-CIO. These organizations offer a host of additional resources such as emergency assistance, seminars, career counseling, low cost financial services, loans and discounts.

How to Join

  • Equity Contract: You may join the Association by virtue of employment under an Equity contract. Applications for joining Equity are only valid during the term of the contract. Certain contract types also have a length-of-employment requirement before a membership application becomes valid; the Membership Department will advise you at the time of joining.
  • Four A's: Associated Actors and Artistes of America Affiliation Membership is also available by virtue of prior membership in a performing arts sister union (AEA-Actors' Equity Association, AFTRA-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, AGMA-American Guild of Musical Artists, and AGVA-American Guild of Variety Artists). Applicants must be members of a sister union for at least one year. Must currently be members in good standing of their parent union. Must have worked as a performer under the union's jurisdiction on a principal or "under-five" contract or at least three days of extra ("background") work. With your application, you must include a written statement from your parent union stating that you meet the requirements above along with a least $400 towards your Initiation Fee.
  • Equity Membership Candidate Program (EMC).  This program permits actors and stage managers-in-training to credit theatrical work in an Equity theatre towards eventual membership in Equity. After securing a position at a participating theatre, you may register as a candidate. The $100 registration fee will be credited against any future Initiation Fee when you become eligible for membership. Eligibility under this program requires a total of 50 weeks of EMC work at participating theatres. If you are joining Equity through the EMC Program, at least a $400 initial payment is due with your application.
  • Aliens/Foreign Actor Rules.  There are certain eligibility restrictions that are applicable to Non-Resident Aliens. You will need to submit proof of US citizenship or Resident Alien status with your application for membership if you were born outside of the US.

Cost

Equity's initiation fee is currently $1,100 and must be paid within a maximum two-year period. You are cautioned that your membership, and any monies paid, will be forfeited should you fail to complete payment of the full initiation fee within the two-year period of time. All membership privileges, including the right to vote, attend meetings, as well as Equity-only auditions, commence upon the initial payment of $400 towards the initiation fee within six months of filing your application.  Basic Dues, $118 per year, billed at $59 semi-annually each May and November. Working Dues, 2.25% of gross earnings under Equity contract, which are collected via weekly payroll deductions. The maximum Equity earnings subject to Working Dues are $300,000 per year. Please note: gross earnings do not include the minimum portion of out-of-town per diem expense monies.

Screen Actors Guild (SAG)

SAG members are experienced professionals who require certain standards of working conditions, compensation and benefits. Membership is often a major milestone in an actor’s career; every SAG card issued symbolizes success and solidarity with a community of 120,000 talented and accomplished artists worldwide.

Represents

Working actors in film, television, commercials, video games, music videos, internet work and other new media.

Benefits

  • SAG Advocates Top Wages and Residual Payments: The Guild’s basic contracts are negotiated with film, television, commercial and multimedia producers to establish minimum wages and working conditions for actors. SAG contracts provide vital protections for today’s performers by keeping pace with advancing technology and ever-expanding broadcast platforms. In addition to basic wages, Guild contracts also secure payments for location work, overtime, holidays, travel time, mileage, stunts and wardrobe. The Guild has also won residual payments in perpetuity for rebroadcast of all current films, TV shows and TV commercials. 
  • SAG Contracts Protect Members on the Job: Guild contracts require basic wages and protections during production that enable performers to do their best work. Among the Guild’s provisions are first-class air travel with flight insurance, private dressing rooms, meal breaks and adequate rest time between calls. SAG contracts also require strict safety precautions and first aid on the set, special protections and education for minors, arbitration of disputes and grievances, and affirmative action in auditions and hiring. 
  • Planning for your future and protecting your health: One of the primary benefits of working under SAG contracts is participation in the Screen Actors Guild-Producers Pension and Health Plans. Performers who accrue the required minimum earnings under SAG contracts are eligible for 12 months of coverage in the Health Plan, provided the applicable premiums are paid. There is also an alternative eligibility based on number of days covered employment if you don’t meet the monetary requirement. Under the Pension Plan, a member earns one pension credit for each calendar year in which the minimum earnings requirement is met. 

How to Join

A performer becomes eligible for Screen Actors Guild membership under one of the following two conditions: (1) proof of SAG employment or (2) employment under an affiliated performers’ union.

(1) Proof of Employment

Principal Performer Employment:  Performers may join SAG upon proof of employment. Employment must be in a principal or speaking role in a SAG film, videotape, television program or commercial. Proof of such employment may be in the form of a signed contract, or original pay stubs. The document proving employment must provide the following information:

  • applicant's name
  • applicant’s Social Security number
  • name of the production or name of the commercial (product name)
  • the salary paid (in dollar amount)
  • the specific date(s) worked.

Background Actors may join SAG upon proof of employment as a SAG–covered background player at full SAG rates and conditions for a MINIMUM of three work days subsequent to March 25, 1990. Employment must be by a company signed to a SAG Agreement under which the Producer is required to cover background actors. Proof of employment must be in the form of original paystubs or a payroll printout faxed from the payroll house. Such documents must provide the same information as listed above.

(2) Employment Under an Affiliated Performers' Union

Performers may join SAG if the applicant is a paid-up member of an affiliated performers' union (ACTRA, AEA, AFTRA, AGMA or AGVA) for a period of one year and has worked and been paid for at least once as a principal performer in that union’s jurisdiction.

If you meet these eligibility guidelines, contact the local SAG office (Boston: (617) 262-8001) to get information on applying to join.  Also check out their website for full details and other offices: www.sag.org

Cost

To join SAG, a performer must pay an initiation fee of $2,277, plus the first semi-annual basic dues payment of $58. Thus, the total fee to join is $2,335. Fees may be lower if you join or work in a branch area other than Hollywood.  Dues are based on a sliding scale, with the amount determined by how much you earn under SAG contracts. Each SAG member pays annual base dues of $116.00. In addition members pay 1.85% of all individual earnings under SAG contracts between $1 and $200,000; and 0.5% of earnings from $200,001 through $500,000; plus 0.25% of earnings from $500,001 to a maximum of $1,000,000.

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