The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) is a labor union for movie and television actors in the United States. Like other labor unions, the Screen Actors Guild works to protect its members, while also promoting the general welfare of the industry it protects. It should come as no surprise to learn that the SAG is headquartered in Hollywood, the home of America's movie industry, although numerous branch offices can be found all over the country.
This labor union was established in 1933 in response to the growing clout of movie studios in Hollywood. Actors were often forced to sign contracts which were extremely exploitative, and many felt that they were working too hard and not earning enough for their work. By organizing as a labor union, Hollywood stars hoped to protect themselves and to make the industry better for everyone. Today, the SAG is affiliated with the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations, and it works with a number of other Hollywood labor unions such as the Writers Guild of America, West.
The mission of SAG is multifaceted. One of the most important tasks of the union involves negotiating contracts which cover things like benefits, working hours, rates of compensation, and so forth. SAG also negotiates on behalf of its members for residuals. The union also promotes work opportunities for its members, and helps members access a variety of health benefits. Since 1995, the Screen Actors Guild Awards have also been a major part of the cultural scene in Hollywood, often suggesting which films will perform well at the prestigious Oscars.
SAG members also get some special protections through their union. The SAG vigorously enforces copyright violations, protecting performers from unauthorized use of their recorded works, and ensuring that actors are not exploited. Unauthorized distribution impacts a variety of people in Hollywood, from actors to studios, and often the SAG works with other organizations to enforce copyright law.
Principal performers are considered “SAG-eligible” if they work for at least one day on a production which is run by a producer who has negotiated an agreement with the Screen Actors Guild. The SAG-eligible performer may work for up to one month on SAG-affiliated projects, enjoying umbrella protections from the union, before he or she is required to file for membership. Background performers are SAG-eligible after three days of work. Once an actor or actress joins the Screen Actors Guild, he or she cannot work on non-union projects.