SAG-AFTRA Requires Members to Seek Union Approval for Work Due to Coronavirus

Dave McNary

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SAG-AFTRA is requiring members to seek union approval before accepting any new work, citing health and safety concerns stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

The union, which represents about 160,000 performers, posted the urgent notice on its website on Thursday.

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“In light of the COVID-19 global pandemic and the attendant high risk to the health and safety of actors returning to work in the commercials and entertainment industry, no member should return to work under an existing contract or accept a contract for new employment without first securing the approval of the union,” the notice began. “Members must contact the union to ensure that they are accepting work that SAG-AFTRA has evaluated and established that the producer/employer has made provision for, and met adequate health and safety standards.”

“In addition, such work offers must be consistent with all local, state and federal guidance regarding social distancing, essential business closures, and shelter in place orders and must be consistent with applicable, existing collective bargaining agreements,” SAG-AFTRA said. “The employers and producers remain solely responsible for ensuring the health and safety of all members they employ and no member shall sign any document releasing the employer from such responsibility.”

“SAG-AFTRA elected leaders, staff and medical experts, in conjunction with other unions and industry allies, are working around the clock to develop safety protocols in accordance with the best medical and safety information on COVID-19,” the union said.

The notice was issued a day after SAG-AFTRA announced it had recruited public health expert Jonathan E. Fielding to join its team of specialists advising the union in developing and implementing new safety protocols for preventing the spread of COVID-19 when production resumes.

“COVID-19 remains a most serious health threat to all those who want and need to return to work,” Fielding said in a statement. “Therefore, developing guidelines to safeguard people’s health as they work is a critical element of reopening this important industry.”

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