SAG-AFTRA’s unprecedented step of instructing members not to accept offers to return to work during the pandemic without first getting the OK from the union was authorized by top-level staff, according to a spokesperson for the union.
Thursday’s urgent safety notice said: “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. 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.”
A spokesperson told Deadline today: “This notice to members is an enforcement and organizing action which longstanding board policy authorizes staff to implement. We have heard from numerous members who were being asked to sign away their right to a safe workplace. Our contracts clearly prevent companies from abdicating their responsibility to provide a safe working environment for their employees. In such circumstances, SAG-AFTRA staff are required to take immediate effective action to enforce the contract and protect SAG-AFTRA members. Producers interested in offering work to SAG-AFTRA members can call the union to ensure they are providing a safe workplace.”
The action did not require authorization from the union’s 38-person executive committee, which on March 24 was authorized by the guild’s national board to take actions on its behalf during “this time of extraordinary national emergency.”